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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‘Illegal map used to clear port plan in Ennore creek’

CHENNAI: The Tamil Nadu State Coastal Zone Management Authority (TNSCZMA) has used a fraudulent CRZ map to facilitate industrial activity in Ennore creek, allege activists.
“Using this map, the TNSCZMA has diverted around 1,000 acres in the creek to facilitate a proposal by Kamarajar Port Ltd,” said Pooja Kumar from Coastal Resource Centre, referring to RTI responses received from the Department of Environment, Tamil Nadu, and the Ministry of Environment, Forests & Climate Change, New Delhi on June 22.

On the allegation of using the wrong map, the member secretary, TNSCZMA, H Malleshappa said through the RTI response that he had furnished a map that was ‘revised and approved by Government of India in 1997.’Malleshappa’s response referred to a letter in 1997, in which the Government of India had permitted the TN government to revise the boundaries of Ennore creek, based on a survey by the Naval Hydrographer. He was, however, unavailable for comments despite repeated calls.

A subsequent RTI response from the Department of Environment dated July 20, however, exposed that the Department did not approach the Chief Hydrographer to demarcate the backwater areas. “In 1997, the Department of Environment did not approach the Chief Hydrographer to demarcate the backwater areas,” the response said. Further it revealed that subsequent to the letter dated 30.9.1997, no modification has been done.

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Ennore Creek falls off map, activists cry foul

Does the Ennore Creek exist or not? As per two RTI replies given by the Department of Environment, it exists and it doesn’t exist.

According to Jesu Rathinam of the Coastal Action Network, in the first RTI reply, a map provided by the Department of Environment, declaring it as approved by the Government of India, showed 6,469 acres of the Creek to be a tidal waterbody protected as a No Development Zone under CRZ-I regulations.

In response to another RTI this year, another official map shows that the entire Ennore Creek has disappeared.

The Coastal Action Network (CAN), the Coastal Resource Centre, the Save Ennore Creek Campaign and Ennore fisherfolk groups want an independent investigation into the functioning of the State Coastal Zone Management Authority and the Environment and Forests Department.

Environment activist Nityanand Jayaraman said as per the map given that now, more than 6,000 acres of the creek will vanish.

 

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Ennore creek erased from govt map, allege activists

CHENNAI: Two maps of the city given to environment activists based on RTI applications appear contradictory. The first, approved by the Centre in 1996, showed the presence of Ennore creek, spread over 6,569 acres, while the second does not have the creek at all.

Coastal Resource Centre founder Nityanand Jayaraman said it was the surprising that the creek, shown as a water body protected as a ‘no development zone’ under CRZ1 in the map presented after an RTI application filed in 2009, was completely missing in the map given after an application filed this year following a controversy over diversion of the Ennore wetlands.

Releasing both maps at a meeting here on Friday, the 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. The creek, they said, protected Thiruvottiyur, RK Nagar, Madhavaram and Ponneri areas from flooding.

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Ennore Creek falls off map, activists cry foul

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Contradictory claims:Two RTI queries have yielded different responses on the existence of the Ennore Creek.R_Ragu | Photo Credit: R. Ragu

Say it would pave the way for takeover by realtors

Does the Ennore Creek exist or not? As per two RTI replies given by the Department of Environment, it exists and it doesn’t exist.

According to Jesu Rathinam of the Coastal Action Network, in the first RTI reply, a map provided by the Department of Environment, declaring it as approved by the Government of India, showed 6,469 acres of the Creek to be a tidal waterbody protected as a No Development Zone under CRZ-I regulations.

In response to another RTI this year, another official map shows that the entire Ennore Creek has disappeared.

The Coastal Action Network (CAN), the Coastal Resource Centre, the Save Ennore Creek Campaign and Ennore fisherfolk groups want an independent investigation into the functioning of the State Coastal Zone Management Authority and the Environment and Forests Department.

Environment activist Nityanand Jayaraman said as per the map given that now, more than 6,000 acres of the creek will vanish.

 

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Ennore Creek is ‘Petrochemical Park’ in new CRZ map

CHENNAI: The new Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) map of Tiruvallur district has marked the 6,400-acre Ennore Creek as “Petrochemical Industrial Park”. Activists fear this is a backdoor attempt to industrialise the creek, an ecologically sensitive area where the Kosasthalaiyar River meets the sea.

The new map was accessed through the Right to Information (RTI) Act. Despite it being the most important document that to would regulate the development along the coastal area, there was no mention of when the map was prepared and by whom.
The new map is in sharp contrast to the 1996 map, which shows the 6,469 acres of Ennore Creek to be a tidal water body and protected as No Development Zone under CRZ-1.

Sharing the documents at the press meet on Friday, members of Coastal Action Network (CAN), Coastal Resource Centre, Save Ennore Creek Campaign and All Ennore Fishing Villages (AEFV) coalition demanded an independent probe into the working of the State Coastal Zone Management Authority and the Department of Environment.

Jesu Rathinam of CAN said she got the copy of the 1996 map in 2009 after struggling for three years. “Also, the map obtained by us covers a stretch of 16 km, while the latest map covers only 13 km and makes it seem as if there is no Creek in the map area,” she said.

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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.

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How can Ennore Creek go missing in map?

Reply from the department of environment denies the existence of the Ennore creek.
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Activists examine the map showing Ennore creek at Chennai Press Club on Friday. (Photo: DC)

Chennai: When the environmental activists are crying foul over the exploitation of Ennore creek, a new revelation brought out through the Right to Information reveals shocking facts.  While the government approved map obtained through RTI by Jesu Rathinam of Coastal Action Network (CAN) in 1996 shows 6,469 acres of the Ennore creek as a No-Development Zone under CRZ-1, another reply from the department of environment denies the existence of the Ennore creek.

Pooja Kumar of Coastal Resource Centre (CRC), said, “The map that we (CRC) acquired through RTI in 2017 covers only 13 km and the entire Ennore creek had disappeared. But the map obtained by Coastal Action Network covers a stretch of 16 km and is consistent with the Coastal Zone Management Plan that identifies Sheet 2, Tiruvallur district.” Condemning the offence, Jesu Rathinam of CAN said, “Since both maps have been obtained under the RTI, the department of environment has falsified the information in one of the two cases. This is a punishable offence.”

The fishermen from Ennore and the environmentalists from CAN, CRC and Save Ennore Campaign on Friday demanded an independent probe into the functioning of the State Coastal Zone Management Authority and the department of environment. Environmentalist Nityanand Jayaraman said, “There should be one map, but there are two maps which are government-approved. While one is legitimate, the other one is clearly a lie. Two different complaints have been filed before Information Commission and State Disaster Management Authority.”

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எண்ணூரில் ஆற்றைக் காணோம்! அதிரவைத்த ஆர்டிஐ தகவல்!!

சென்னையை அடுத்துள்ள எண்ணூர் பகுதிகளில் இந்திய அரசு அங்கீகாரம் பெற்ற, இதுநாள் வரை வெளியிடப்படாத கடற்கரை ஒழுங்கு முறை அறிவிப்பாணையின் (CRZ) வரைப்படத்தின் படி எண்ணூர் ஆற்றின் 8,000 ஏக்கர் நிலங்களில், மத்திய மாநில அரசின் பொதுத்துறை நிறுவனங்களைச் சேர்ந்த பல்வேறு நிறுவனங்கள் எந்த ஒரு  மேம்பாட்டுக்கும் அனுமதி இல்லை என்று குறிப்பிடப்பட்டுள்ள நிலங்களில் 1090 ஏக்கரை ஆக்கிரமித்திருக்கின்றன.
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கடற்கரை ஒழுங்குமுறை அறிவிப்பாணையின் படி அதன் அனுமதிக்காக சமர்ப்பிக்கப்படும் அனைத்து விண்ணப்பங்களையும், மாநில மற்றும் மாவட்ட கடற்கரை மேம்பாட்டு குழுமங்களின் அங்கீகரிக்கப்பட்ட திட்டம் மற்றும் வரைபடத்தின் அடிப்படையில் தான் மதிப்பிட வேண்டும். ஆனால், ஆர்டிஐ சட்டத்தின் மூலம் பெறப்பட்ட தகவலில் தங்களிடம் எண்ணூர் ஆற்றின் அங்கிகரீக்கப்பட்ட வரைபடம் இல்லை என திருவள்ளுவர் மாவட்ட  மற்றும் மாநில கடற்கரை மேம்பாட்டு குழுமங்கள் கூறியிருக்கின்றன. இதுவரையில் திட்ட அனுமதிக்கு  திட்டத்தை முன்மொழியும் நபர்கள் தந்த வரைபடங்களை அடிப்படையாக  வைத்து மட்டுமே அனுமதி தரப்பட்டு வந்திருக்கிறது. ஆர்டிஐ மூலம் தரப்பட்ட வரைபடத்தில் உள்ள முரண்பாடுகள் குறித்து இன்று பத்திரிகையாளர் சந்திப்பு நடைபெற்றது. இதில் ஜேசு ரத்தினம், எண்ணூர் அனைத்து கிராம மீனவ கூட்டமைப்பின் உறுப்பினர் ஸ்ரீனிவாசன், கடற்கரை வள மையத்தைச் சேர்ந்த சரவணன், சுற்றுசூழல் ஆர்வலர் நித்தியானந்த ஜெயராமன் ஆகியோர் பங்கேற்றனர்.

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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

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