CRZ Regulator Manipulates Documents; Denies Existence of Ennore Creek

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21 July, 2017. Chennai:   Two widely conflicting maps of the Ennore Creek, both of which were presented as Government of India-approved CRZ maps in two separate RTIs, have exposed serious irregularities and possible fraud in the functioning of the Department of Environment. A map provided to Jesu Rathinam of Coastal Action Network under RTI in 2009 by the Department of Environment declared as the map approved in 1996 by Government of India shows 6469 acres of Ennore Creek to be a tidal waterbody protected as No Development Zone under CRZ 1. However, in the version presented as the official map in response to a 2017 RTI – after controversy erupted over diversion of Ennore wetlands – the entire Ennore Creek has disappeared.

“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. The map obtained by CAN covers a stretch of 16 km and is consistent with the Coastal Zone Management Plan that identifies Sheet 2, Thiruvallur District as covering a coastal stretch of 16 km. The later map given in response to the 2017 RTI, however, covers only 13 kmand 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 Environment & Forest Department that heads the authority. The Ennore Creek protects Thiruvottiyur, RK Nagar, Madhavaram and Ponneri areas from flooding. “By converting Ennore Creek into real estate, we are condemning the people of North Chennai to a watery grave. The city could not handle the tiny Adyar when it flooded. If we lose the Creek and the mighty Kosasthalaiyar floods during the next rains, nothing can save this city,” warned R.L. Srinivasan, a fisher leader from the Coalition of All Ennore Fishing Villages. The Kosasthalai River can discharge 125,000 cusecs, which is far more than the combined discharge of Adyar and Cooum.

Documents obtained indicate that the map denying the existence of Ennore Creek is the falsified one. The 2017 RTI response includes a 1997 letter from the Ministry of Environment & Forests responding to requests for certain changes proposed to be made by the Government of Tamil Nadu to accommodate the setting up of a petrochemical park in Ennore.

Specifically, the Ministry allowed the Government of Tamil Nadu to re-draw the backwater limits contained in the 1996 approved map based on survey by the Chief Hydrographer to the Government of India. The Ministry, however, denied the Government of Tamil Nadu’s request to remove salt pans from the purview of CRZ and insisted that salt pans influenced by tidal actionwould 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. “The Naval Hydrographer – a scientific body — could not have ignored the existence of such a large tidal waterbody,” he said.

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.

For more information, contact: Nityanand Jayaraman – 9444082401;

Jesu Rathinam – 9443316738. Blog: storyofennore.wordpress.com

Remove Ennore creek waste: TNPCB to port

CHENNAI: Concerned at the damage being done to the ecologically sensitive Ennore creek, the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board has ordered Kamarajar Port Ltd to immediately remove the dredged material illegally dumped in a portion of the water body.

The action was based on an inspection conducted by officials of the TNPCB and the Directorate of Environment on a complaint by K Saravanan of the Coastal Resource Centre against the port’s attempts to convert 280 acres of the creek’s tidal wetland into a coal stacking yard.

Welcoming the move to protect the Ennore Creek, volunteers of the centre and Save Ennore Creek Campaign said the management authority should ensure that no one was allowed to convert the ecologically sensitive area in to real estate. The TNPCB should prosecute offenders under the Environmental Protection Act, 1986, they urged.

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All mega projects sail into 1,090 acres of troubled waters

CHENNAI: State and Central government entities have converted over 1,000 acres of the ecologically sensitive Ennore creek — and have more in the pipeline — in violation of mandatory procedures, alleged activists on Friday in a revelation that raises serious concerns.

The creek’s 8,000-acre water spread area is classified as CRZ-1 (Coastal Regulation Zone), where development is strictly regulated, according to Coastal Zone Management Plan (CZMP) of 1996. As per CRZ notification, this is the only approved map, and the state and district coastal zone management authorities have to refer to it while appraising all applications seeking clearance.

In two separate RTI responses to Coastal Resource Centre, an NGO, the Tiruvallur district Coastal Zone Management Authority (CZMA) and the State CZMA have revealed that neither has a copy of the approved map for Ennore creek. The district authority admitted that it relied solely on the maps submitted by the project proponents.

“The CZMP of 1996 has so far been kept under the carpet. Major establishments like Kamarajar Port and the thermal power plants have got clearances based on unapproved maps prepared by their consultants. This is a serious violation by State and Central public sector undertakings,” said Nityanand Jayaraman of Save Ennore Creek Campaign.

 

Some of the activities like port and oil storage containers are permitted in CRZ-1, but the basis on which the clearances were obtained was wrong.

 

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An Open Letter to Declare Ennore Creek as a Climate Sanctuary Save Chennai; Save Ennore Creek

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Over the last 18 months, Chennai has witnessed its worst flooding, a violent cyclone, a scorching summer, a drought, and a calamitous fire. All events are linked by some common threads — our collective disregard for safety; our inability to appreciate the long-term consequences of bad planning; political expediency; and our misplaced priorities that make us undervalue open unbuilt spaces. The mistakes of our past are catching up with us. But we don’t need to continue making those mistakes.

The Ennore Creek spreads over about 8000 acres. Of this, 1090 acres of wetland area has been lost to encroachments. Another 300 acres of Creek has been damaged by flyash from North Chennai Thermal Power Station’s leaky flyash pipelines. The existing encroachments have drastically altered contours by raising the level of the reclaimed land by up to 15 metres above sea level.

Kamarajar Port wants to convert an additional 1000 acres of wetland into real estate. As you read this, the Port is dumping dredged sand into newly constructed bunds to create a coal yard on 280 acres of the Creek. TANGEDCO is dumping sand and debris to block the Creek and the Kosasthalaiyar to build a coal conveyor for the ETPS power plants. TANGEDCO already has a railway line to transport coal from the port to the power plant. Why the cash-strapped TANGEDCO is constructing an expensive conveyor belt with money it does not have is anybody’s guess.

That is the bad news. But there is good news. Only 15 percent of the Creek has been encroached upon. Saving the remaining 7000 acres is a definite possibility. Arresting all further diversion of the Ennore wetlands, and reversing the encroachments wherever possible will vastly improve the region’s resilience to extreme weather events such as storms/cyclones, heavy rainfall and water scarcity. Such an action will be in line with the law and our obligations to future generations.

This is a mission that we all can – as individuals, communities and governments – engage ourselves in with a sense of shared purpose.

                                         Ennore Creek without Encroachments 1996                

1996 APPROVED F MAP

  Ennore Creek Encroached 2017

1996 F MAP

 

The Creek

The Ennore Creek is bound on the north by the Pulicat Lake and to the south by the Manali marshlands. The worst encroached portion is also the most critical in terms of maintaining the hydrology of the region.

The Creek drains the Arani River, a portion of Lake Pulicat, the Kosasthalaiyar and the surplus course of the Puzhal Lake through the estuary at Mugatwarakuppam.

The Kosasthalaiyar has a catchment of 3757 square kilometres – more than double the combined catchment area of the Adyar and Cooum rivers. The Arani River drains about 1535 square kilometres. With a peak discharge of 125,000 cusecs, Kosasthalaiyar alone can drain more water into the Bay of Bengal than Adyar and Cooum put together.

Of the four estuaries draining Chennai – namely, Kovalam, Adyar, Cooum and Ennore – it is Ennore Creek that evacuates the largest volume of water. Four assembly constituencies – Ponneri, Madhavaram, R.K. Nagar and Thiruvotriyur – stand to be affected by floods if the Creek is compromised. If an Adyar flood brought us to our knees, a Kosasthalaiyar flood can cripple the city.

Ennore Creek can protect us against floods, storms and cyclones and seawater’s intrusion into groundwater.  That is why it deserves to be declared and protected as a Climate Sanctuary. There is much empty talk about climate resilient cities. In Ennore, the Government of Tamil Nadu and the city of Chennai have an opportunity to show the world how cities can actually be made climate resilient.

The Law

The Ennore Creek is a protected wetland under the Wetland Rules, 2010. Reclamation or setting up of new industries or expansion of existing industries is prohibited within protected wetlands.

The Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) Notifications of 1991 and 2011 too apply to the Creek, which is a tidal waterbody. The Government of India-approved Coastal Zone Management Plan, based on which all projects for CRZ clearance should be appraised, declares the entire Creek as CRZ 1 (ecologically sensitive) – a No Development Zone. Indeed, when the CZMP was approved in 1996, the Creek was free of encroachments. (See Annexure 4 – Google Earth 1996)

But, the CZMP was given a quiet burial, and projects allowed to encroach the Creek. Each encroachment is built by dumping earth or construction debris on water to create land that is anywhere between 15 and 45 feet (5 to 15 metres) above the originally prevailing contour levels. While these encroachments eat into the spread of the Creek, flyash spills from

TANGEDCO’s North Chennai Thermal Power Station have silted up deep water areas of the creek and reduced the depth of the creek from 14 feet below sea level to 2 to 4 feet. Despite orders from Madras High Court and National Green Tribunal, TANGEDCO continues to dump toxic flyash into the creek.

The Impacts

The encroachments have reduced the depth and the spread of the Ennore Creek. Once a famed fishing ground with a rich diversity of commercially valuable fish, prawns and crab, the Ennore Creek is gasping for life. Fishing economy has been badly hit, and once self-sufficient fisherfolk families in Mugatwarakuppam, Sivanpadai Kuppam and Kattukuppam have been reduced to poverty.

Flooding:

In December 2015, areas like Kuruvimedu, Athipattu, Athipattu Pudunagar, Ernavur, Manali New Town, Kodungaiyur, Vyasarpadi, Tondiarpet, Korukkupet —  located in the assembly constituencies of Madhavaram, Ponneri, R.K. Nagar and Thiruvottiyur — were badly affected by floodwaters because of the encroachments in Ennore Creek.

Storm Surges:

In December 2016, Cyclone Vardah made landfall in the Ennore region. The resultant storm surge of more than 1 metre above the astronomic tide inundated low-lying areas in the region. Normally, the Creek is the first shock absorber to deter the storm surge. But with its water carrying capacity vastly reduced, the Creek’s ability to absorb storm shocks has also declined. As the encroachment continues, storm surges will send seawater deep into the hinterland through the rivers, streams and channels and inundate areas that have never before experienced flooding due to tidal surges.

Salinity or Seawater Intrusion:

The AK-basin, or the area between Araniyar and Kosasthalaiyar, is a groundwater-rich area. Metrowater has six well-fields – Minjur, Panjeti, Thamaraipakkam, Poondi, Kannagiper and Floodplains — that yield upto 100 million litres per day of water for Chennai during water-scarce times such as now. The AK-basin is witnessing aggressive salinity intrusion. This will worsen as sea levels rise due to climate change.

Because the Creek stretches about 16 km in a north-south direction, tidal and storm surges are spread parallel to the coast rather than deep inland through rivers, streams and channels. The Ennore Creek’s western edges – which are the areas that have been and are being encroached – are salt marshes and abandoned salt pans. Compromising the creek will aggravate salinity intrusion and endanger Chennai’s water sources. Instead, if the western edges of the Creek are used to harvest rainwater, we can strengthen our defences against seawater intrusion.

Conclusion:

If cared for well, the Ennore Creek can become India’s first “climate sanctuary” — a human biosphere project or conservation reserve where multiple livelihood, ecological and climate adaptation objectives are accommodated.

Restoring the river to its original depth, recovering what can be recovered of its spread, and preventing further encroachment can yield significant dividends. This is doable and should be done.

The State administration is already aware of the importance of the Creek; many within the administration are keen to protect the Creek. Their hand needs to be strengthened. Citizens need to speak up to say that we cannot afford to lose more of our wetlands, not after all that has happened to us in the last 18 months.

Write to the Chief Secretary, Government of Tamil Nadu (Email: cs@tn.gov.in)  urging her to do the following:

a) Declare Ennore Creek as a “Climate Sanctuary” and a No Construction Zone.

b) Prohibit any further encroachment; identify and remove existing encroachments.

d) Develop and execute a detailed ecological restoration plan for the Creek.

e) Restore Creek to its original depth in consultation with fisherfolk and at the expense of the polluters..

f) Protect sand dunes and natural features of the CRZ 1 areas on the Kattupally barrier island, and halt all commercial groundwater extraction ongoing in Kattupally Barrier Island.

Endorsed by:

Chandra Mohan – Arrapor Iyakkam

Sundarrajan G – Poovulagin Nanabargal

Arun Krishnamoorthy – Environmentalist Foundation of India

George – Ilanthamizhagam

Saravanan K / Pooja Kumar – The Coastal Resource Centre

Nityanand Jayaraman –  Save Ennore Creek Campaign

 

PRESS RELEASE : Dirty Industries in Chennai’s Edges Blow their Poisons to City Centre

Chennai, 10 May 2017: Air quality results from Poes Garden and the posh Boat Club indicate that the city cannot escape pollution by merely pushing all dirty industries to the poorer working class areas along the city’s margins, and particularly North Chennai. “Chennai can never dream of clean air as long as it considers Ennore, Manali in the north or Alathur in the south to be industrial sacrifice zones. Our experience from Delhi tells us that the sources of local air pollution may be tens of kilometres away from the city,” said Shweta Narayan of Community Environmental Monitoring.

Coastal Resource Centre took a total of eleven 24-hour samples from Chennai and the edges of the Chennai Metropolitan Area in April 2017. Six of the worst samples are from locations in North Chennai – from NTO Kuppam on the Ennore Highway, Manali, Sivanpadai Kuppam (near Ennore Thermal Plant), Kodungaiyur, Kuruvimedu (near Vallur Thermal plant’s coal ash pond) and Seppakkam (near NCTPS’ coal ash pond). The samples collected at Sivanpadai Kuppam (Ennore), NTO Kuppam (Ennore Highway), Kodungaiyur and Manali had levels of PM2.5 that would be considered by the U.S. EPA as “Very Unhealthy – People with heart or lung disease, older adults, and children should avoid all physical activity.”

Levels of PM2.5 in Poes Garden and Boat Club would be considered by the U.S. EPA as “Unhealthy — People with heart or lung disease, older adults, and children should avoid prolonged or heavy exertion.”

Factsheet Finalpdf.jpgThe elevated levels of iron and calcium in all samples, including from Poes Garden and Boat Club, suggest that coal combustion in industrial or power plant boilers may be a significant contributor to the urban pollution load. “There is a case to be made that emissions from coal ash dumps, thermal plants and industrial boilers, which can be re-suspended, has created regionally elevated levels of iron and calcium particulates in Chennai,” said Dr. Mark Chernaik, staff scientist at US-based NGO ELAW-US, who interpreted the results.

The Ennore region alone has 3330 MW of installed coal power plant capacity, with more than 1500 acres as dedicated coal ash dumps. Another 6430 MW is proposed to be added in the coming years taking total capacity to 10,000 MW.

”The high concentration of polluting industries in the city’s northern and southern edges is affecting all of Chennai,” said Dr. Hisamuddin Papa, a leading pulmonologist from Huma Hospital. “North Chennai, with its dense working class population is particularly vulnerable as poor health exacerbates their poverty. But we cannot help them until existing industries continue to pollute, and more polluting industries are allowed to come up here,” he said.

For more details:  Pooja Kumar: +91 9791122180.

Note: The 24-hour samples were taken using filters fitted to a low volume air sampler and analysed for PM2.5 and heavy metals in Chester LabNet at Oregon, USA.

‘Give us back our river’

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Parshathy J Nath visits the Ennore creek, a waterbody in distress, and listens to the stories of fishermen as they relive the good old day. One part of the Ennore creek, covered with a layer of black mass, lies still like a corpse. Another channel of dark water, the Buckingham Canal, which carries petroleum effluents from Manali, runs a few kilometres from it. I am at Kattukuppam, a fishing hamlet in Ennore, North Chennai, with city-based environment activist Nityanand Jayaraman.

The creek, which drains the Araniyar and Kosasthalaiyar rivers, once ran unperturbed, carrying crystal-clear water. The Buckingham canal, a salt-water navigation system built in the 19th Century, was a treasure trove of fish. This is all just a memory now.

I look around to see the origin of this injustice — fly ash from a power plant in Vallur and a thermal power station have destroyed the river, its fish, and the livelihood and childhood memories of the fishermen.

Like everyone else in the city, I learned of the state of Ennore and its associated wetlands, thanks to the viral ‘Chennai Poromboke Paadal’ video featuring T.M. Krishna.

“Ennore is now a river in distress, begging to be saved. For years, nobody has paid any attention to it,” says Jayaraman, who has been tirelessly working with his eco-warriors for the last four years to save the area from encroachment by the Kamarajar Port that opened in 2001. He takes me around Mugatwarakuppam, Kattukuppam and Sivanpadai, the three fishing villages dependant on the river.

The smell of fish welcomes me into this village. Women squat on the ground with the early-morning catch, primarily prawns. There was a time when fishermen used to boast about Ennore fish and crab. Now, they hesitate to call guests over for a meal, because most of the fish are poisoned by the effluents. Ennore used to be a weekend getaway with sprawling vegetation during the Raj. “The first signs of pollution began in the 1980s, when industries in Manali released effluents into the Canal. Around the same time, waste from the Northern areas was sent down the Canal towards Ennore, along with downstream products from the sister associates of the Manali petrochemical industry.”

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