Health Experts and Citizens launch a network of low-cost air quality monitors for Chennai

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Chennai, 29 January 2018: Launching Chennai’s first citizen-led real time air quality monitoring network, founder and trustee of Delhi-based Lung Care Foundation Dr. Arvind Kumar said data from Chennai’s new “Atmos” monitors reveal that Chennai residents are breathing unhealthy air most days in a given month. The data revealed that between January 1 and January 23, daily averages of the levels of the dangerous PM2.5 in Kuruvimedu (Vallur), Kodungaiyur, Anna Salai at Teynampet and Mugatwarakuppam in Ennore ranged from unhealthy to hazardous for more than 80 percent of time. Air quality in Eldams Road near Teynampet was better with 10 days out of 16 daily measurements revealing air quality within the 24-hour Indian PM2.5 standard of 60 micrograms (ug)/m3. None of the locations had any day where air quality was within the more stringent World Health Organisation (WHO) 24-hour standard of 25 ug/m3. All locations recorded hazardous levels (above 180 ug/m3) of PM2.5 on 13 January, the day of Bhogi festival.

A joint project of Chennai-based Huma Lung Foundation and The Other Media’s Healthy Energy Initiative, and Mumbai-based UrbanSciences, the citizen air monitoring exercise will display its results on the website atmos.urbansciences.in/dashboard. The website will continuously report readings of PM2.5 from the five locations. Dr. Hisamuddin Papa, a leading pulmonologist who is leading the effort in Chennai, has installed one monitor atop his hospital in Teynampet, and has urged medical institutions and media houses to also invest in the Rs. 15,000 easy-to-operate air quality monitors.

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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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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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Erosion Accelerates upto 100 meteres to the North of Illegal Groynes at Kovalam

In April 2016, we reported that the TN Government is building structures that will destroy the Kovalam Beach  which will in turn put beaches towards the north of Kovalam at a high risk of erosion. These groynes were laid without any environmental impact assessment or prior clearances from any statutory bodies. Roads have been laid on ecologically fragile parts of the beach, with no regard to what regulatory laws stipulate.

The authorities have been watching this illegality, inspite of repeated representations about the dangers of building hard structures, the work has continued. Today, more than 100 m of pristine beach land has been lost to the sea. Yet, there seems to be no movement within the regulatory bodies to stop this madness. It has come to our knowledge that the  National Green Tribunal has ordered for the removal of the groynes, but as of 19th October 2016, no work has begun on the removal of the groynes. However, the question of who is responsible for the ongoing erosion and what measures will be taken for reversing the erosion still remains open.

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June 2016: Beach north of the groyne field in Kovalam
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August 2016 – Effects of Erosion is visible
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September 2016 – Accelerated erosion engulfs over 100 m of beach

It is clearly visible that the sea has reached the first row of coconut trees within a plantation in the area. Google Earth Imagery shows more than 100 metres of beach that does not exist in real life anymore.

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Ennore Air More Toxic Than Manali Industrial Hub’s Air

350A4036-2Chennai, 11 April 2016:

Ennore air quality is far worse than the air quality in Manali, an petrochemical industrial area that was notified as a critically polluted area. This finding was noted in a report released by Chennai-based Coastal Resource Centre based on scientific analysis of Ennore air samples for PM 2.5 (dust) and heavy metals. At between 105.7 and 141.5 micrograms per m3 of air, PM2.5 (dust less than 2.5 micrometres in size) levels in all four samples were 1.7 to 2.3 times higher than the 24-hour standard of 60 ug/m3 prescribed by the Ministry of Environment, Forests & Climate Change (MoEFCC). Levels between 55.5 and 150 ug/m3 will trigger a public notification of “unhealthy” air if such levels are found in US cities.

All samples also had alarming levels of one or more toxic heavy metals such as manganese, lead, nickel and arsenic.

 Arsenic levels in the sample from Kattukuppam exceeds the Indian MoEF annual standard of 0.006 µg/m3 by 1.25 times. Arsenic causes cancer and skin sores.

 Manganese levels in all four samples were above the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) standards by 1.2 to 2.5 times.

 Lead levels in two samples [Kattukuppam and Athipattu] exceed US EPA National Ambient Air Quality Standards for long-term exposure.

 Nickel levels in one sample at Athipattu exceed the California OEHHA standards by 1.2 times.

Manganese, lead and nickel are neurotoxins that damage the brain. Children are particularly vulnerable to the effects of lead. Exposures to even low levels of lead early in life have been linked to effects on IQ, learning, memory and behavior.“The Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board is unresponsive to our complaints. The power plants around Ennore have destroyed our environment and health, and more are planned with no regard for our ability to withstand pollution,” said a representative of the Coalition of All Ennore Fishing Villages (எண்ணூர் அனைத்து மீனவ கிராம கூட்டமைப்பு).

The 6-village coalition to save the Ennore Creek has called for a moratorium on expansion of thermal power plants and other industries in the region.“Ennore’s air quality is already harming people. The Government should take urgent steps to improve air quality, institute a health survey to identify damage and rehabilitate affected people,” said Dr. Rakhal Gaitonde, a public health specialist. All samples were taken from housetops in Kattukuppam, Mugathwara Kuppam, Athipattu and Ernavur. All locations are within 2-3 km radius of the nearest power plant or ash pond. The 24-hour samples were taken using filters fitted to a low volume air sampler and analysed for PM2.5 and heavy metals in Chester LabNet at Oregon, USA.

Illegal Roads eat into 5.8 km of coastline in Chennai

The Corporation of Chennai and suburban coastal local bodies have laid 5.8 km of illegal roads between Thiruvanmiyur and Muttukadu, according to a report released by the Coastal Resource Centre. The report documents 10 illegal sea side roads laid by the civic bodies. The report was released today at a press conference attended by fisherfolk representatives from Kottivakkam, Thiruvanmiyur, Urur Kuppam and Srinivasapuram along with members of citizen group ‘Save Chennai Beaches’.

Illegal Road between Palavakkam to Kottivakkam
Illegal Road between Palavakkam to Kottivakkam
Illegal Road at Nainar Kuppam
Illegal Road at Nainar Kuppam
Illegal Road outside Hare Rama Hare Krishna Compound, Thiruvanmiyur
Illegal Road outside Hare Rama Hare Krishna Compound,       Thiruvanmiyur
Illegal Road at Old Karikattu Kuppam
Illegal Road at Old Karikattu Kuppam

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14 Acres of Beach Lost to Chennai Corp’s CRZ Violations

Chennai, 26th November 2014

Activities undertaken or abetted by the Corporation of Chennai has resulted in encroachments on more than 14 acres of beach space between Marina and Neelankarai. Releasing a report documenting 20 prominent Coastal Regulation Zone violations by the civic body, members of Coastal Resource Centre said the encroachments harm local ecology and fisher livelihoods, and leave local communities more vulnerable to cyclones and long-term effects of climate change. The report was released even as the State Coastal Zone Management Authority was considering the Corporation’s application for post-facto clearance for a foiled beautification project in Marina.

The report was prompted by the Corporation’s insistence on pushing through with two “beautification” projects – one in Marina, and the other in Kottivakkam, Palavakkam and Neelankarai beaches — worth Rs. 100 crore despite strong opposition from residents and fisherfolk. Both projects have commenced illegally without the mandatory CRZ clearances from the State Coastal Zone Management Authority. Rather than take action against the Corporation and make it restore the beach to its natural state, the SCZMA is said to be favourably considering the application.

“The report exposes how the Corporation which is meant to regulate construction in the city is one of the most prominent violators of building rules in the CRZ region,” said K. Saravanan, a fisherman from Urur Kuppam and one of the report’s authors.

At least 15 of the 20 violations involve dumping of construction debris, or the use of debris to construct roads or other structures on the beach. Management of construction and demolition waste is the responsibility of the Corporation of Chennai. In November 2012, the National Green Tribunal came down heavily on the Government for dumping debris in Pattinapakkam and Srinivasapuram beaches, and forced the authorities to restore the beach by removing the debris and a debris-filled road.

“Identifying and acting on violations in the coastal region will free up large areas that can be kept as buffers against extreme weather events, and as space for long-term housing needs of fisherfolk and the poor,” said Nityanand Jayaraman, an advisor to the Coastal Resource Centre. “But identifying and acting against violations requires a bureaucracy with integrity and spine, and the SCZMA is not up to the task,” he added.

For more information, contact:

Saravanan – 9176331717

Nityanand Jayaraman – 9444082401

Coastal Resource Centre – a program of The Other Media

No. 92, Thiruvalluvar Nagar 3rd Cross,

Besant Nagar, Chennai 600 090