RTI reveals Chennai’s largest estuary Ennore Creek missing in the latest CRZ map

A 1996 CRZ map obtained by Jesu Rathinam of Coastal Action Network under RTI in 2009 from the Department of Environment shows 6,469 acres of Ennore Creek to be a tidal water body protected as ‘No Development Zone’ under CRZ 1.

Two widely conflicting maps of the Chennai’s largest estuary Ennore Creek, both of which were presented as Government of India-approved Coastal Regulatory Zone maps in two separate RTIs, have exposed serious irregularities and possible fraud in the functioning of the State Department of Environment.

A 1996 CRZ map obtained by Jesu Rathinam of Coastal Action Network under RTI in 2009 from the Department of Environment shows 6,469 acres of Ennore Creek to be a tidal water body protected as ‘No Development Zone’ under CRZ 1. However, the entire Ennore Creek has disappeared in the latest map received in response to a RTI petition in 2017 after controversy erupted over diversion of Ennore wetlands.

“Since both maps have been obtained under RTI, the Department of Environment has falsified information in one of the two cases. That is a punishable offence under the RTI Act,” said Jesu Rathinam, Convenor of the Coastal Action Network.

“Two separate complaints have been filed with the Tamil Nadu Information Commission seeking a probe into the matter. The organisations have also approached the State Disaster Management Authority and the Chief Secretary to intervene to avert a disaster,” said environmentalist Nityanand Jayaraman.

The map obtained by CAN covers a stretch of 16 km, and is consistent with the Coastal Zone Management Plan that identifies Thiruvallur District as covering a coastal stretch of 16 km. The latest map given in response to the 2017 RTI, however, covers only 13 km and makes it seem as if there is no Creek in the map area.

Releasing the documents at a press conference, Coastal Action Network, Coastal Resource Centre, Save Ennore Creek Campaign and Ennore fisherfolk demanded an independent probe into the functioning of the State Coastal Zone Management Authority and the State Environment and Forest Department that heads the authority. The destruction of the Ennore Creek poses a serious threat to life and property of the people living in the North Chennai as the Creek helps drain the flood waters to the sea.

The MOEF, GOI, in a letter in 1997, allowed the Tamil Nadu government to re-draw the backwater limits contained in the 1996 approved map based on the survey by the Chief Hydrographer to the Union government. However, the Ministry denied the state’s demand to remove salt pans in Ennore from the purview of CRZ and insisted that salt pans influenced by the tidal action would invoke the protection of the CRZ notification. The letter does not mention any request made or approval granted to alter the boundaries of the CRZ map. “We believe the 1996 map – declaring the entire Creek as CRZ 1 — is the correct one as it is consistent with law and reality,” said K. Saravanan of Coastal Resource Centre.

This article was originally posted in DNA. You can access it here.

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