By encroaching into the Ennore creek, Kamarajar Port Ltd’s expansion will worsen flooding in the densely populated North Chennai region and wipe out fisher livelihoods, said Ennore creek fisherfolk opposing the Port’s 3rd phase expansion at an environmental public hearing conducted by the TNPCB. Calling the public hearing farcical and illegal, city-based environmentalists said KPL had violated the CRZ Notification by approaching the central ministry for CRZ clearance by-passing the state regulators. KPL has applied for clearances to expand cargo-handling capacity by 60 MTPA by constructing 10 new berths.
Irate fisherfolk insist that the declining health of the Ennore Creek and the growing encroachments will be a key issue in the upcoming local body elections. The project intends to convert nearly 700 acres of wetlands including saltpans, mudflats, fish farms and mangrove-fringed tidal channels into land for ancillary facilities. A bus parking lot is to be constructed by blocking a section of the Buckingham Canal. A coal storage yard is planned by filling up saltpans and mud flats. Some of the berths will be built by cutting the land at the seashore. Already, coal and ore yards and roads have occupied more than 300 acres of wetlands.
The company applied to the Union Ministry of Environment & Forests seeking a joint environmental and CRZ clearance for its expansion. However, CRZ Notification states that project proponents have to first approach the district and state coastal zone management authorities. As early as in January 2010, the Ministry of Environment had directed that in cases where backwaters constitute part of the project area, CRZ clearance has to be obtained first. However, the Ministry has not insisted on its own rules for the 100 percent government owned mini-Navratna.
“KPL’s illegal activities have already affected our livelihood and safety on the river. They have built a road blocking the river, and dumped mud to fill up mangroves. The coastal zone authority stopped the dumping after our complaints but has refused to punish KPL or make them repair the damage,” said L. Srinivasan, a fisherman and member of the Kaatukuppam Fishermen’s Co-operative Society.
A report of a non-governmental public hearing headed by retired Justice Hariparanthaman found that encroachments in the Ennore creek, including by KPL, had reduced its flood carrying capacity drastically and made surrounding areas vulnerable.
Participants pointed out that the Environmental Impact Assessment for the project does not mention any of the fishing villages, or assess impacts of the proposed wetland conversion on flooding or fisher livelihoods. The project, they said, will also aggravate salinity intrusion into groundwater aquifers critical to Chennai’s drinking water supply.
For more information, contact The Coastal Resource Centre
Saravanan K – 9176331717
Pooja Kumar – 9791122180