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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Oil pollution threatens Chennai’s beaches

Morning walkers shocked to find oil on the sands of the Marina at Nochikuppam, Pattinapakkam; fishermen demand immediate action

Sunday’s oil spill as a result of the collision of two cargo ships off the Kamarajar Port in Ennore has been polluting Chennai’s beaches too.

On Monday morning beach walkers found oil on the sands on the Marina beach, near INS Adyar, at Nochikuppam and at Pattinapakkam.

Anusya Parasuraman, a resident of Nochikuppam and regular morning walker, said that she was shocked to see the black oil deposit on the sands of the Marina. “In many places people were playing in the water despite the blackish oil floating around. Several fishermen from Nochikuppam, who landed their boats after fishing trips, said there was a strong smell of oil in the sea,” she said.

Various fishermen organisations have demanded immediate action to remove the oil spills as it is affecting the livelihood of the fishermen.

M.D. Dayalan of the Indian Fishermen’s Association said the oil would affect the sea for years to come. “Fishermen have not been able to venture into the sea for the past two days,” he pointed out.

K. Bharathi of the South Indian Fishermen Welfare Association said the leak had proved that the port had no safety mechanisms in place to prevent such pollution. “They only want ports to flourish but not us fishermen,” he said.

Nanjil Ravi of Akila Indhiya Meenavar Sangam said efforts must be taken to contain the spill, which is fast spreading. “More and more fishing hamlets are getting affected by this oil spill.”

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Oil blackens Marina, but Kamarajar port officials, shipping minister deny spill

The polluted waters due to the oil spill. (Photo | EPS)

The polluted waters due to the oil spill. (Photo | EPS)

Unprecedented scenes were witnessed on Monday on the shores of the Bay of Bengal from Bharathiyar Nagar near Ennore to Marina Light House, with tonnes of tar-like thick black oil allegedly leaked from one of the vessels that collided near Kamarajar Port two days ago, polluting several square kilometers of sea. The oil deposit has converted sandy beaches, including the Marina, into a rubbery ground, making it inaccessible to the public.

Oil Washed Ashore on The Marina, in Chennai on Monday | Romani Agarwal
When Express travelled on a fishing boat along the Marina beach stretch, several chunks of oil deposits were spotted among the waves.The biggest challenge was that both Kamarajar Port and the vessel that caused the disaster remained in denial, leaving the official machinery clueless about what they were dealing with. Minister of State (Shipping) Pon Radhakrishnan visited the port and observed that there were no spills/sheens in the area, claims a release from the port.Read More »

Disaster on Chennai’s coast as oil spill cripples livelihood, marine life

Activists warn of physical and chemical effects following the oil spill.

As one approaches Bharathiyar Nagar in Ennore, the smell of oil – pungent, distinctive and overwhelming – fills the air. By the shore, the environmental disaster that has unfolded is there for all to see. Where the waters of Bay of Bengal once lapped the shore, a film of black sludge gleams in the sunlight. The dense sludge floating on the sea surface spreads with the tide, smearing everything it touches black.

Three days after the MT BW Maple, carrying liquefied petroleum gas, and MT Dawn Kanchipuram, an oil tanker collided near the Kamarajar Port in Ennore, officials are still struggling to contain the oil spill. A dozen fishermen together with the Indian Coast Guard are the clean-up crew. Armed with only buckets, they scoop the sludge into buckets, a slow and tedious task, even as the oil spill has drifted towards the south – to the Marina Beach and to Elliot’s Beach.

 

Nityanand Jayaraman, environmental activist says, “The impact on the environment, health and the livelihood are closely connected. It should have been contained almost immediately. Otherwise it becomes impossible to contain the spill as the slick moves to the shore and to deeper sea.” Adding to the problem, he notes, is that authorities are unaware about just how much has spilt.

The fishing villages near the port were among the first to experience the damage. When the ships collided at 4am on Saturday, Nirmal, a fisherman who was out at sea, felt the oil fall on him. “I came back home and tried removing all the oil but it wasn’t washing off. Later, I came to know that two ships had collided and the oil had leaked from one of the ships,” he narrates.

The villagers of three fishing villages – Kasi Koil Kuppam, Kasivisalatchi Kuppam and KVK Kuppam – situated about 300 metres from the sea are distressed over the environmental catastrophe that has taken place at their shores. Fishermen complain of not being able to go out to sea, and many found their nets damaged, coated in the greasy oil, while their boats returned to shore with the film of black sludge on their surface.

“All the spilled oil has reached the shallow waters due to the water currents. We cannot fish here now as the fish will not remain in the same area after the oil spill. Many of the fish have also died. We won’t be able to fish for the next three months,” points out SA Vignesh, Meenavar Makkal Munnani Katchi, head of the North Chennai region.

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Fact Finding Mission to Enquire into Alleged Police Excesses on 23rd January 2017 in Nadukuppam Village, Marina Beach

நாங்க காலம்காலமா இந்த குப்பத்திலே இருக்கோம். நாங்க இன்னிக்கி திடீர்ன்னு பயங்கரவாதிகளா ஆயிட்டோமா? அடிபட்டு, ரத்தம் சிந்த ஓடிவந்த கொழந்தைங்க, அவங்க பயங்கரவாதிங்களா? அவங்களும் எங்கள மாதிரி தமிழங்கதானே? எங்க கொழந்தைங்க மாதிரிதானே? தமிழனுக்குத் தமிழன்தானே ஆதரவு தரனும்? அவங்கள காப்பாத்துறது எங்க கடமை இல்லையா? அதுக்கா எங்கள இப்படி அடிச்சு நோறுக்குனாங்க?”

– Woman resident, Nadukuppam. As told to Dr. V. Vasanthi Devi.

An all-women fact-finding team consisting of Dr. V. Vasanthi Devi, former chair State Commission on Women, Prof. Anandhi Shanmugasundaram, Adv. Poongkhulali Balasubramanian, and Chandrika Radhakrishnan from Thozilalar Koodam visited Nadukuppam between 2 and 5 p.m. on 24 January to file the following fact-finding report. Considering the urgency of the situation and the threat of destruction of valuable evidence at Nadukuppam, the Fact finding team has decided to release this report immediately.

The Fact-finding team was overwhelmed by the consistency in the testimonies of hundreds of people who came forward to speak – sometimes all at once – about the goings on of 23 January, 2017. What is clear is that after their initial hot pursuit of bleeding and terrified youngsters from the beach, the police returned at least two more times armed with stones, bottles, petrol bombs, rubber bullets, tear gas and incendiary material. It is established quite clearly that:

a) The police had badly beaten the young men and women who came running into the village in the early hours with injuries, clothes in a disarray and in a state of incoherent terror.

b) The police repeatedly referred to the youngsters as “theeviravadhigal” (terrorists) to justify their violent behaviour. By accusing the villagers of harbouring terrorists, they justified their violence and destruction of property.

c) Policewomen were as abusive – physically and verbally – as the policemen. They have used sexist, demeaning words, entered homes, destroyed furniture, dragged innocent men, women and children out on the street and beaten them up in public view.

d) Policewomen set fire to the fishmarket using some inflammable powder like substance. Several other vehicles and hand carts and shops were also systematically targetted. Some police women also looted the fish, especially the high-priced fish.

e) Policemen later came and tried to pressurise residents to sign a testimony declaring that the protestors had indulged in arson and violence, and promised them compensation in return. The residents refused.

f) Just as the fisherfolk were recovering from Vardah, the police have destroyed the single most important livelihood asset of more than 250 women in Nadukuppam. This will have a devastating impact on the domestic economies of the families, and the schooling and future of their children at a time when exams are around the corner.

g) The mental trauma – anger and helplessness mixed with a sense of betrayal – can have lasting effects on the minds of the women and children who were witness to and victims of police atrocities.

RECOMMENDATIONS:

a) Convene a high-level independent probe to verify the findings of this report and the allegations of the residents of Nadukuppam.

b) Immediately offer an ex-gratia compensation to all households in Nadukuppam with an extra amount to the fisherwomen who have lost their assets in the arson attack on the fishmarket.

c) Enquire into the complicity of higher officials in the police department, and take appropriate action.

d) Do a detailed valuation of the lost property, damaged assets in terms of livelihood assets, household goods, houses, furniture and vehicles, and arrange for compensation by the Chennai City Police.

e) Conduct a thorough investigation and pin penal liability on police personnel that participated in the attacks of 23 January, and their seniors who ordered the attack. Depute an independent forensic expert of high repute and expertise to look into the huge volume of electronic evidence regarding the incident and also survey the entire area.

f) The State and National Commission on Women should take particular note of this attack, and commission an enquiry for necessary corrective action.

g) Police should publish their standard operating procedure for crowd control and evicting protestors, and compliance to the SOP should be verified for this specific instance.

h) Selection of police personnel and police officers should include thorough pyschological screening to ensure that the personnel possess the sensitivity to handle situations like these that require a high degree of restraint and respect for human dignity.

i) A permanent judicial ombudsman be constituted to adjudicate on police measures that affect civil rights in order to increase transparency and accountability of senior police officers.

Members of the Fact Finding Team:

  1. Dr. V. Vasanthi Devi, former Vice Chancellor, Manonmaniam Sundaranar University, chairperson, State Women’s Commission.
  2. Dr. Anandhi Shanmugasundaram, Assoc. Professor, Madras Institute of Development Studies.
  3. Poongkhulali Balasubramanian, Advocate, Madras High Court
  4. Chandrika Ramanujam, Thozilalar Koodam and TN Labour Blog

Photographs: Amirtharaj Stephen, Praveen and Steve Rodriquez

Read the full report on the fact finding enquiring into police excesses in Nadukuppam Village, Marina here

VICTORY | Fishers Rejoice As Kamarajar Port Bids to Repair Damage to Creek |

The Story of Ennore

PRESS RELEASE

01.12.16. CHENNAI

Notching yet another victory against illegal industrial encroachments in Ennore Creek, the region’s fisherfolk welcomed Kamarajar Port Ltd’s (KPL) Rs. 1.36 crore tender for removal of dredged sand that was dumped on salt pans to convert the wetlands into real estate. Saltpans are protected wetlands under Coastal Regulation Zone Notification and the National Wetland Rules, 2010. KPL is in possession of 637.7 acres of saltpan lands that was transferred from the Central Salt Department in March 2015.

Highlighting the illegallity of KPL’s dumping, the Ennore Anaithu Meenava Grama Koottamaippu (Ennore All Fisher Village Coalition) and Chennai-based Coastal Resource Centre, haltedclipping the activity last August 2015. In October 2016, KPL once again resumed its dumping only to be stopped by the Thiruvallur sub-collector, who was inspecting the removal of such encroachments along with fisher representatives and city-based environmentalists.

For the first time in the 25 years…

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