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.

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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.

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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.

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In tune with PM Narendra Modi’s can-do business spirit, Environment Ministry set to tweak rules

In a new order, the Environment Ministry will soon replace the existing 2011 notification of the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) that manages all activities taking place on the coastline of India.

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In a new order, the Environment Ministry under Prime Minister Narendra Modi will soon replace the existing 2011 notification of the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) that manages all activities taking place on the coastline of India. The new order that will soon be implemented by the government will be called Marine and Coastal Regulation Zone (MCRZ) notification, according to report in the Indian Express. This move of the government comes with an aim to make important changes in the way it governs the coast and also to remove the ban on reclamation of land all over the coast line including the ecologically sensitive areas along the shores and to use it for others grounds like commercial, entertainment and even for tourism activities.Read More »

A sea change

Drastic changes to coastal governance rules do not adequately address livelihood and ecological concerns

The government is planning to bring in changes to the way the country’s coasts are governed. A draft Marine and Coastal Regulation Zone (MCRZ) notification is reportedly in the offing. The last Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) Rules were notified in 2011. There have been significant changes in land-use along the coast since the CRZ 2011 was notified and it has been argued that a strict implementation of the 2011 rules has led to a neglect of development in coastal areas, particularly in Karnataka, Goa and Kerala. The draft tries to open up coastal areas to development activities, but it does so in a manner that invites accusations that it wavers on its fundamental mandate of protecting coastal ecology and securing the livelihoods of people who depend on marine ecosystems.

The draft proposes to remove the ban on reclamation of land in coastal areas for commercial or tourism activities even in ecologically-sensitive areas. In doing so, it does not adequately acknowledge the idiosyncrasies of coastal areas. Sand dunes, for example, are natural bulwarks against strong sea winds and high waters. Mangroves, the tiny forests along the coastlines, cushion the impact of tidal waves. Flattening them in order to construct tourism infrastructure compromises the coast’s resilience to natural calamities. The new rules continue a trend that began in 2015 with a series amendments to the CRZ 2011. An amendment that year, for example, allowed reclamation of the seabed for constructing roads. Another amendment, last year, allowed commercial establishments like the shacks in Goa to remain erected during the monsoon months.

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