MUTTUKADU (KANCHEEPURAM):In what could be an attempt to encroach upon the Muttukadu brackishwater lagoon, an ecologically sensitive area 30 km from Chennai on the East Coast Road, a mud road 12 ft wide and 100 m long has mysteriously come up across the water body. Allegedly built by a group with real estate interest, the road provides direct access to bungalows, owned by popular personalities and built dangerously close to sea water (as close as 20-30 m) in violation of Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) rules. About 64 sub-divisions are created in survey number 114 spreading across 32 acres. The location has Muttukadu lagoon on one side and the sea on the other, giving an island look.
Officials of the Central Institute of Brackishwater Aquaculture (CIBA), a Central government institute that owns the area and runs an experiment station on the lagoon, has termed the road patently illegal. They fear it will detach tail-end shallow portion of the water body making it easy for realtors to encroach upon. However, fishermen from Karikattukuppam claim the road was built to help them carry fishing gear to the sea. This is not the first such attempt. The CIBA had to fight three encroachment attempts in 1991, 2007 and January 2016.
Official land records accessed by Express show that several high-profile individuals own properties along this stretch. Names of popular cine actors, an actor-turned-politician and several production houses feature in the records. Express is not naming them since all of them could not be reached for comments.
Though Mahabalipuram Local Planning Authority has locked and sealed the bungalows built on the entire 32 acres a couple of years ago for violating CRZ norms, fresh constructions continue under the nose of the officials. When Express visited the place, construction work was on with materials piled up at multiple housing plots.
As per the 2011 CRZ notification, the land falls in CRZ-III, where the area up to 200 m from High Tide Line on the landward side in case of sea front is earmarked as ‘No Development Zone’. No construction is allowed within the NDZ, except for repairs of existing authorised structures of dwelling units of traditional coastal communities.
The new entry point by virtue of this illegal road is throwing several other questions. CIBA officials have been running from pillar to post, knocking on the doors of all departments concerned to remove encroachments, but seldom taste success.
The jurisdictional Kanathur Police Station inspector the police would provide protection for removing the encroachment, provided there is a direction from a competent authority such as the revenue department.
An official complaint was also lodged with Malleshappa, Director of the Department of Environment and member secretary of Tamil Nadu State Coastal Zone Management Authority, who forwarded it to the Kancheepuram District Environment Engineer.
Kancheepuram Collector R Gajalakshmi, who has also been petitioned, directed the revenue divisional officer to visit the spot and hold dialogue with the CIBA and local fishermen.It is learnt that the CIBA’s experiment station is actively involved in research and developmental activities in the field of brackishwater aquaculture.
The lagoon area was previously held by the Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute (originally transferred from Tamil Nadu government during 1981) and subsequently handed over to the CIBA in 1986-87. The centre has state-of-the-art facilities like fish/shrimp/crab hatcheries, feed mill and soil and water testing laboratory in Muttukadu. The CIBA has put a board near the newly-laid road claiming ownership and warning encroachers of legal action.