RTI Response reveals TN Government is Hastening the Preparation of CZMPs – Is that the solution to protect environment and fisherfolk?

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Chennai – An RTI response received by the Coastal Resource Centre reveals that the Government of Tamil Nadu, after delaying the preparation of a statutory state Coastal Zone Management Plan, is now attempting to rush through a CZMP that activists fear will regularise CRZ violations and free up coastal wetlands for real estate. The response, which contained minutes of a high-level meeting chaired by Environment Secretary on 6 July, 2017, notes that the draft CZMP will be uploaded for public consultation by 15 August, 2017. The Directorate of Environment is required to work with National Centre for Sustainable Coastal Zone Management (NCSCM) to incorporate public comments by end September and conduct public consultations in all coastal districts by 31.10.2017.  The finalised CZMPs are to be processed within a month and sent by the state government to the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change by 31.12.2017.

A new plan, mandated under the CRZ 2011 was to be completed by 2013 by the addition of Land Use Plans (LUP) of coastal communities, Uniform High Tide Line and Low Tide Line for India’s coast and mapping violations of the plans approved in 1996. Six years hence, all of this remains to be completed.

In April, 2017, the CRC had released a report that used three case studies to highlight how NCSCM’s flawed High Tide Line (HTL) demarcation had wrongly identified 900 acres of coastal wetland as land. The same report also highlighted how NCSCM’s HTL effectively regularised encroachments built inside the HTL of coastal waterbodies.

CRZ Notification 2011 requires all coastal states to identify and act against CRZ violations, and prepare CZMPs. In July 2011, the Directorate of Environment, which is entrusted with finalising the CZMP, had resolved to identify and publicly report violations, and take action against them. However, till date, not one violation has been identified. Violations identified and reported by citizens have been condoned or complaints ignored.

Between the flawed HTL and the failure to identify offenders encroaching inside water bodies, the entire exercise of drawing up a fresh CZMP will convert an environmental protection regulation into a bonanza for real estate and a disaster for coastal residents.

On 31st July 2017, the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change extended the validity of the 1996 Government of India-approved state CZMP for the sixth time since the introduction of the CRZ Notification 2011. All states have to have approved CZMPs by July 2018. A copy of the Notification is below.

If the Tamil Nadu government is serious about protecting the environment and fisherfolk, it should first identify structures built in violation of the 1996 approved CZMP, redraw the HTL with careful ground-truthing and prepare a map that clearly identifies fisher’s land and ocean-use and areas reserved for long-term housing for fishers.

For more information, contact: Pooja Kumar – 9791122180; K. Saravanan – 9176331717; Nityanand Jayaraman — 9444082401 

 

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Time to change course

Chennai city will have no future if plans to fill the Ennore creek go ahead

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Since December 2015, Chennai has limped from one extreme weather-related shock to another — the floods, the failed monsoon of 2016, Cyclone Vardah, and now the water crisis. Chennai’s defining element is water. But the city shows scant regard for this precious but dangerous resource. Located squarely in the intervening floodplains of three rivers on a high-energy coastline, Chennai is a disaster-prone location. Any badly located city can be vulnerable merely by virtue of its location. But only a special kind of city — a city with a death wish — actively makes a bad situation worse.

Nothing speaks more elegantly to Chennai’s death wish than what governments are doing to the wetlands in North Chennai. In June, the State government conceded the Government of India-owned Kamarajar Port Ltd’s (KPL) request to divert 1,000 acres of the hydrologically sensitive Ennore wetlands for industrial installations that are best built on dry land. The proposal is pending Central government clearance. If permitted, KPL’s dream will turn out to be Chennai’s worst nightmare, far worse than the 2015 floods.

The importance of Ennore

Ennore Creek, a sprawling 8,000-acre tidal waterbody, is a place where climate change and disastrous land-use change converge. Two rivers with a total catchment of 5,000 sq km empty into the Ennore Creek.

This wetland’s importance may not be apparent. Much of the creek looks dry year-round, when visible waterspread is only 1,000 acres. But when cyclonic weather pushes the sea surging landwards, or when rainwaters from the two rivers come rushing to meet the sea, the waterspread in the creek swells to its majestic fullness. Come rain or storm surge, the availability of room for the rain or sea water to stay is what keeps the city from going under.

The creek offers another protection too. It buffers the rich aquifers of the Araniyar-Kosasthalaiyar Basin from the sea, and keeps salt water from invading groundwater resources that supply several hundred million litres daily to Chennai even during the worst droughts.

In 1996, the Tamil Nadu government protected a 6,500-acre stretch of the tidal waterbody under the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) Notification. But greed prevailed over good sense. More than 1,000 acres of the creek were lost to illegal encroachments that rise like dams across a river.

The offending installations block the path of rainwaters rushing down the Arani river and the mighty Kosasthalaiyar. Areas that never got flooded saw waters enter homes and remain for more than a fortnight in 2015. Tamil Nadu’s lifeline, the Manali petroleum refinery, went under water for days.

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