Forest dept wakes up, stays illegal construction near Pulicat

CHENNAI: Cracking the whip on rampant illegal constructions at the ecologically-sensitive Pulicat, the State forest department stayed a mega residential project that proposed to construct rows of villas on the sea front of the lake.

The action came following a series of reports in Express, including one on July 28 that detailed the real estate developments in the area, including the under-construction township coming up within the Pulicat sanctuary.K Geethanjali, wildlife warden, Chennai, told Express that a team has been sent to probe the allegation that construction was taking place within the Pulicat sanctuary boundaries.

“About 13 villages under local panchayat limits are part of Pulicat sanctuary, which is a no-development zone. Traditional fishermen in the area can carry out bona fide activities, but building permanent structures for commercial activities is prohibited. We issued notices and works have been stopped,” the official said.Read More »

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Hydrocarbon Activities Have Harmed Delta Environment, Scientific Analysis Reveals

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FIELD CONTAMINATED BY ONGC’S OIL SPILL ON 30 JUNE 2017 

CHENNAI. 09 August, 2017 — Scientific analysis of soil, groundwater and surface water samples from Thanjavur, Thiruvarur and Nagapattinam confirm delta villagers’ fears that hydrocarbon operations by ONGC and CPCL are harming the environment. The study also concluded that ONGC had failed to observe international best practices in responding to the June 30 oil spill leading to spread of contamination to public water courses and the Velloor irrigation canal. All seven samples – including four soil, two surface water and one groundwater – are contaminated by hydrocarbons linked to oil extraction or refining. Releasing the results in Chennai, the Solidarity Group for Justice and Accountability, a state-wide alliance of individuals and people’s organisations, called for an independent third-party audit of the environmental impacts of ongoing hydrocarbon activities and remediation of contaminated sites at ONGC’s cost. They demanded for the release of jailed villagers, and prosecution of negligent ONGC, TNPCB and district officials.

The results also contradict claims made by the state government, and hydrocarbon majors like ONGC and CPCL.

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Samples were taken as per established scientific methodology 

ONGC’s claim: Oil leaks and spills are promptly attended to; contaminated lands are fully restored.

What the Results Say: Two soil samples were collected from a farm in Thirupunjai, Thiruvarur district, that was contaminated during an oil spill more than 10 years ago. The samples contained 1760 parts per million (or mg/kg) and 2983 mg/kg of Total Petroleum Hydrocarbon (TPH) respectively. The contaminated field had a perceptible odour of rancid petroleum. The soil was brittle, devoid of vegetation and had visible clumps of tar balls. Given that uncontaminated soils should have no trace of TPH, the levels found in the Thirupunjai field are exceedingly high and highlight the failure of ONGC to deploy remedial measures to restore the paddy lands. More than five acres in the vicinity of the contaminated field also lay fallow. Local farmers said rainwater flowing from the oil leak site had rendered surrounding fields also infertile. Crude oil pollution compromises the water holding capacity of soil, harms soil microbial population and reduces crop yields, particularly for paddy.

ONGC’s claim: People prevented ONGC from tending to the June 30 oil spill and resultant contamination in Kathiramangalam

What the Results Say: Two sets of water and soil samples were taken from the Mr. Sriram Ramamoorthy’s certified organic farm that bore the brunt of the June 30 oil leak from ONGC’s crude oil pipeline. One set of surface water and soil samples were taken 10 days after the incident from a location about 50 feet away from the epicentre of the spill. The other was taken from the epicentre of the leak 13 days (soil) and 15 days (water) after the leak.

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Sriram Ramamoorthy’s Certified Organic Farm contaminated by leaks from ONGC’s Pipeline Leak 
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Oil spilled in this field ten years ago, it is still heavily contaminated. 

Surface water sample taken from the epicentre of the pollution contained 33.9 mg/L of TPH. The sample from 50 feet away was mixed with rainwater and contained 2.4 mg/L of TPH. The soil taken 50 feet from the epicentre contained 438 mg/kg of TPH, while the soil in the epicentre contained 1118 mg/kg. Uncontaminated surface water of irrigation quality or uncontaminated farmland soil should not contain any TPH.

 Photographs taken by Kathiramangalam farmers reveal that contamination has been carried by rainwaters into the Velloor irrigation canal. ONGC has ignored repeated requests by the land-owner and farmers of surrounding lands to clean up the contamination.

Government Claims: Hydrocarbon extraction and processing does not harm the environment

What the Results Say: One sample of groundwater was taken from a handpump in Vellapakkam village, about 200 metres from CPCL’s petroleum Narimanam refinery in Nagapattinam. The sample contained 0.2 mg/L of mineral oil, iron levels more than 37 times above permissible limits. The water had a strong odour of rotten egg suggesting the presence of hydrogen sulphide. Mineral oil contamination of groundwater is a result of petroleum refining. From oil spills to underground leaks, hydrocarbon extraction and processing activities are seen to be harming the environment.

Coming as they do when the government has announced plans for a 250 square km Petrochemical investment region, the results raise the disturbing prospect of similar pollution in the areas proposed to be covered by PCPIR.

The spread of contamination into the Velloor Irrigation Canal is a criminal offence as a public water source is being poisoned. Rather than act against the offender, the district administration has jailed villagers.

For more information, contact: Nityanand Jayaraman – 9444082401

Is the law protecting India’s coasts being diluted?

TN activists carry out protest yatra In March the Central government proposed that the current Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) be replaced by the Marine Coastal Regulation Zone (MCRZ).

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Since the Central government approved the Enayam port project in Kanyakumari last year, there have been protests by the fisherfolk community claiming that it will affect more than 20,000 families in the area. Fishworkers now have another reason to worry as activists claim that the new Marine Coastal Regulation Zone (MCRZ) notification of the Central government will be diluting the coastal protection laws and making way for industrialisation.

To protest against dilution of coastal protection laws, coastal industrialisation and increasing prices of fishing accessories due to Goods and Services Tax (GST) four organisations–the National Alliance of Peoples’ Movement (NAPM), Peoples’ Movement Against Nuclear Energy (PMANE), Tamil Nadu Land Rights Federation (TNLRF) and All India Union of Forest Working People (AIUFWP)–carried out a ‘yatra’ from July 10 to July 27, 2017 from Nerrody to Chennai.

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Real estate sharks eye Pulicat

CHENNAI: A massive resort with individual villas and at least two residential townships are coming-up on the beach front of the Pulicat Lake and it is dangerously close to the lagoon in the ecologically sensitive area. None of the government departments and agencies, which are responsible for protecting the fragile ecosystem, are aware of the projects even as private builders are widely marketing the projects.

 

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Concrete threat: Real estate projects have sprung up in the fragile ecosystem of Pulicat Lake that is home to thousands of migratory birds and marine species | Shiba Prasad Sahu

When Express visited the spot, the construction is almost half-way. “We have grand plans of converting this place into tourist hotspot. Many NRIs are showing interest since Pulicat is very close to Chennai and offers a perfect gateway for recreation with pristine beach and historic Lake. Our project is likely to be completed by December 2018. Row of customised villas are planned. A furnished villa with built-up area of 740 sq.ft is billed at `30 lakh,” an employee of an upcoming resort at Vairavan Kuppam, told when reporter posed as a buyer.

In the field visits by Express, it was found that the constructions are coming up in at least three places close to the lake. At Vairavan Kuppam in survey number 16 and 24, a massive resort with fully-furnished villas is being constructed in an area of 12 acres. Already, three villas are nearing finishing stage and another six villas are under construction.

Read More »

Boat Club, Poes Garden not spared from pollution: Report

Pushing industries to the city fringes doesn’t help, say activists

If you think that posh residential neighbourhoods such as Boat Club and Poes Garden have lesser pollution levels due to their tree cover, you are mistaken. These areas have recorded high levels of particulate matter that are lesser than 2.5 microns.

Boat Club recorded 104.30 micrograms/cubic metre and Poes Garden 101 micrograms/cubic metre during a 24-hour period last month. According to Central Pollution Control Board standards, anything above 90 micrograms/cubic metre is classified as unhealthy for sensitive groups. The permissible level for 24-hours is 60 microgram/cubic metre.

Members of civil society, residents of north Chennai and doctors, who addressed the media on Wednesday called for putting a stop to air pollution from industries, especially from coal-fired thermal power plants in the north of the city. They also demanded adherence to national standards and no further expansion of high polluting industries in the area.

Read More »

Press Release: Scientific Body’s High Tide Line for TN Wrongly Drawn to Create Real Estate: Coastal Activists

Chennai: Nearly 900 acres of tidal wetlands in two locations have been wrongly identified as land by the National Centre for Sustainable Coastal Management (NCSCM) which got a multi-crore contract to demarcate the High Tide Line for Tamil Nadu under the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) Notification, 2011. This and other inconsistencies were revealed during a ground truthing exercise conducted by the Coastal Resource Centre (CRC). The erroneous demarcation shortchanges fisherfolk by showing tidal waterbodies as developable real estate.

The inconsistencies cast a shadow on NCSCM’s demarcation exercise and the robustness of the verification process by the State and Central Coastal Zone Management Agencies, CRC said. NCSCM’s High Tide Line cannot be relied upon for preparing the State Coastal Zone Management Plans.

NCSCM had denied access to these maps under RTI claiming that disclosure would prejudicially affect their scientific and economic interests. The maps were later accessed through the State Coastal Zone Management Authority.

“Public scrutiny of such foundation data sets is critical as this forms the basis of the CZMP.   An inaccurate HTL can result in a flawed CZMP, and throw open ecologically sensitive areas for development,” said Pooja Kumar of the Coastal Resource Centre.

CRC ground-truthed the HTL data set by zeroing in on locations where prima facie discrepancies were evident.

  • In Karungali, Thiruvallur District, and Yedaiyanthittu Kazhuveli in Kanchipuram/Villupuram districts, the HTL is demarcated within the tidal waterbody thereby reducing the area of water protected by the CRZ Notification. By doing this, nearly 888 acres of new developable real estate has been created in these two locations.

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  • The HTL on one arm of the Adyar River was highlighted to show how man-made structures on the river were arbitrarily used to mark the extent of tidal influence. the CRZ limits of Adyar creek stops with the first causeway that the river’s backwaters pass on north of the river mouth.

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  • In Athipattu village on Ennore Creek, NCSCM effectively obliterates all evidence of CRZ violation by Hindustan Petroleum (HP). HP has illegally built on a mangrove-fringed tidal creek (CRZ IV and CRZ I under CRZ Notification). By failing to ground-truth or compare it against an earlier, more robust HTL demarcation by the Institute of Remote Sensing, NCSCM’s HTL wrongly uses HP’s violation as the baseline.

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Thousands of fisherfolk along the coast of India are facing threats to livelihood and living spaces from various sectors targeting the coast. A robust plan to manage such a contested space is needed to secure the lives and livelihoods of artisanal fishers and protect ecologically sensitive areas. To achieve this, three action points are suggested

  • Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate change must immediately call for a complete scientific revalidation of the HTL prepared by NCSCM by conducting extensive ground truthing and community consultations
  • HTL prepared by NCSCM in this form must be declared invalid and instructions be passed to all states to pause using this data for preparation of CZMP
  • No project be considered for CRZ Clearance at the state and/or central level until the finalization of a Coastal Zone Management Plan following the guidelines issued in the CRZ 2011 using an accurate, validated HTL.

For More Information Contact :

Saravanan K – 9176331717

Pooja Kumar – 9791122180