Chennai, December 2020 – None of the 65 coastal aquaculture hatcheries surveyed along 130 kilometers of Tamil Nadu’s two coastal districts — Chengalpattu and Villupuram have required licenses under CRZ Notification and Water Act, and most failed to comply with the siting setbacks prescribed by the Coastal Aquaculture Authority (CAA) Act. The CAA Act prohibits setting up of all aquaculture facilities within 200 metres of the HTL. Units coming up outside this region but within the CRZ would require a clearance under the Notification, and a Consent to Operate under Air and Water Acts. 63 units violated CAA Act’s setback norm, and none has a CRZ clearance or Consent to Operate. These findings are part of “Below the Radar” — a report published by the Coastal Resource Centre.
Coastal aquaculture hatcheries, that culture and spawn shrimp have been constructed within the “No Development Zone (NDZ)” of 200m from notified High Tide lines and on coastal sand dunes notified as “Ecologically Sensitive” (CRZI-A) areas. However, with no regulatory oversight from the Coastal Aquaculture Authority or the Tamilnadu Coastal Zone Management Authority hatcheries continue to operate in gross violation of stipulated norms. “A total regulatory gap has been revealed as there seems to be nobody who is overseeing the operation of what could potentially be a pollution source with serious implications on the environment and health locally” said K Bharathi of South Indian Fishermen Welfare Association.
Makeshift bridges constructed with wooden logs carry lengths of PVC pipe into the Bay of Bengal. These have been observed releasing untreated, unregulated sewage holding no consent from the state’s Pollution Control Board. It has also been established that groundwater drawl is prevalent among the hatcheries for Industrial use. Hatcheries, Piggeries and Poultry Farms are regulated by the Central Pollution Control Board as Industries requiring consent to establish and consent to operate under the Water and Air acts. “A lot of pharmaceutical waste and other medicines for aquatic animals can be observed dumped with garbage in the vicinity of the hatcheries. Officials from both the Environment Department and the TNPCB have turned a blind eye.” added K Bharathi.
Large buildings, with sprawling compound walls that house these aquaculture facilities have mushroomed along the coast, blocking access to coastal commons. “Unauthorised and unregulated construction of aquaculture hatcheries and other such large buildings have greatly affected local fisherfolk as use of Periya Valai is obstructed due to these constructions” said S. Palayam, a fisherman from Chennai. In the months of January to March, when the seas are still, Chennai’s fisherfolk haul the communal Peria Valai (Big Net) to catch mackerel, prawns and perch. The Peria Valai, which is hauled by 50 to 60 able-bodied fishers requires untramelled access to kilometres of beach lengths with sandy stretches extending landwards for at least 200-500 metres.
Apart from land use change and losing secure access to coastal commons, fisherfolk also complain that they are being kept in the dark and their traditional and customary uses and rights disregarded. “There is no information given to any of the fisherfolk what is the kind of effluent they release. Sometimes it is brown in colour with a strong odour. Although the villages are close to the hatcheries, no information or warnings are shared with the village either by the hatcheries, or the government agencies” Said Sathish from Alamparai, in Chengalpattu District.
“Detailed survey of coastal aquaculture hatcheries along all districts in Tamilnadu must be undertaken and compliance to CRZ Notification 2011, Coastal Aquaculture Authority Act 2005 and Water and Air Acts of all hatcheries along TN coast must be verified urgently. Those found in violation must be removed and the natural state of the area restored” said K Saravanan, one of the authors of the Report. “These illegalities of particular significance in light of the ongoing Vigilance department raids on the Environment Department and TNPCB officials. Officials responsible must be identified and prosecuted ” he added.
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