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24 July, 2017. CHENNAI — The Tamil Nadu State Coastal Zone Management Authority (TNSCZMA) used a fraudulent CRZ map to facilitate Kamarajar Port Ltd’s proposal to divert 1000 acres of the Ennore Creek, according to RTI responses received from the Department of Environment, Tamil Nadu, and the Ministry of Environment, Forests & Climate Change, New Delhi. On June 22, 2017, the SCZMA cleared KPL’s proposal for diverting 1000 acres to construct car parking terminals, warehouse zones and a coal yard within the Creek, despite representations to the highlighting the dangerous flooding that will result from such illegal encroachment.
Defending allegations that the Authority had failed to use the 1996 Government of India-approved CRZ map for evaluating proposals in Ennore Creek, Member Secretary, TNSCZMA Dr. H. Malleshappa had furnished a CRZ map purporting to have been “revised and approved by [Government of India] in 1997.” Where the original 1996 map (obtained under RTI by Jesu Rathinam of Coastal Action Network) showed the 6500 acre Ennore Creek as CRZ 1 — a protected tidal waterbody, the latter map denied the existence of the Creek. The latter map was also given in response to a representation that KPL’s proposal should be denied as it fell afoul of the 1996 CRZ map.
Dr. Malleshappa’s response referred to a letter in 1997 where the Government of India had permitted Government of Tamil Nadu to revise the boundaries of Ennore Creek based on a survey by the Naval Hydrographer.
Shocked by the denial of the Creek’s existence, CRC had requested to know the basis of revisions made to the 1996 map, specifically the Hydrographer’s survey to redefine the creek’s boundaries.
In response to CRC’s RTI request, the Department of Environment in a letter dated 20.7.2017 has revealed that “In 1997, the Department of Environment has not approached the Chief Hydrographer to demarcate the backwater areas,” and that “Subsequent to letter dated 30.9.1997, no modification has been done.” The RTI revealed that Dr. Malleshappa’s claim that the 1997 map had replaced the 1996 map showing the Creek as a protected zone was false.
“This is high-level fraud with clear intent to violate both the environmental laws and the Right to Information Act. More dangerously, the illegal approvals given for encroachments within the Creek by the SCZMA puts nearly 1 million people at risk due to disastrous flooding,” said Nityanand Jayaraman of Save Ennore Creek campaign. The campaign will pursue criminal prosecution of the officials involved in the fraud.
The matter has been brought to the notice of Environment Secretary, the Chief Secretary and the State Disaster Management Authority. “We would like to believe that these senior administrators would not knowingly violate the law or put communities at risk. But for us to continue believing so, the Government must withdraw the approval given to KPL, act against all existing encroachments and declare Ennore Creek off-limits for industrial installations,” said Pooja Kumar, Coastal Resource Centre.
Already 1090 acres of the 6500 acre creek has been encroached upon. An additional 300 acres has been degraded by flyash discharged from North Chennai Thermal Power Station. As we speak, NTECL Vallur is dumping mud on mangroves to expand its flyash pond.
The existing encroachments caused serious flooding in Manali, Ernavur, RK Nagar, Athipattu and Ponneri during the 2015 floods. Since the floods, KPL has encroached on an additional 400 acres of the Creek. If the rains are heavy this monsoon, the flooding in North Chennai, Manali and Ponneri will be disastrous.
Alleging that similar fraud has been committed throughout Tamil Nadu’s coast, Jesu Rathinam of Coastal Action Network said “This fraud by SCZMA calls for a thorough and independent enquiry into the violations of CRZ Notification using the 1996 map as the baseline.”
For more information, contact: Nityanand Jayaraman, Save Ennore Creek campaign: 9444082401; Pooja Kumar, Coastal Resource Centre: 9791122180.