CHENNAI: Pandemonium prevailed at a public hearing on draft Coastal Zone Management Plan (CZMP) as angry fisherfolk on Friday heckled District Collector V Anbuselvan and officials of the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB).The public hearing organised in the Old Dock Labour Building at the Chennai Port Trust got underway around 11 am amidst tight police security. Even before the Collector finished the presentation and commenced proceedings, about 100 fishermen walked close to the dais and vociferously demanded cancellation of the public hearing, alleging that the draft CZMP plan had not followed stipulated guidelines prescribed under the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) Notification, 2011.
For about 45 minutes, ruckus and sloganeering marred the event, forcing authorities to conclude the public hearing abruptly and leave the venue. K Bharati, leader of South Indian Fishermen Welfare Association, said that as per the annexure-1 of the CRZ Notification, 2011, which lists out guidelines for preparation of Coastal Zone Management Plans, hazard mapping should detail the land use plan and the existing authorised developments on the seaward side shall be clearly demarcated.
Besides, while preparing the CZMPs under CRZ notification, 2011, the CZMPs that have been approved under the CRZ Notification, 1991 shall be compared. A justification shall be provided by the Coastal Zone Management Authority (CZMA) in case the CZMPs prepared under the CRZ Notification, 2011 varies with respect to the approved CZMP prepared under the CRZ Notification, 1991. But, none of these was incorporated.
Saravanan Kasi, a fishermen leader from Urur Kuppam, said the National Centre for Sustainable Coastal Management (NCSCM), which prepared the draft plan, had committed several blunders. In Chennai, Ramanathapuram, Kanniyakumari, Tiruvallur, Nagapattinam and Cuddalore districts, large tracts of salt pans and wetlands have been omitted and CRZ classifications have been changed without providing any justification.
In Chennai, a large extent of coastline upto Uthandi on the East Coast Road has been changed from CRZ III to CRZ II, essentially removing the ‘no development zone’ protection and freeing it for development.
Another issue raised at the public hearing was the ‘conspicuous’ missing of hazard line, which forms basis for preparing the CZMPs. Express has recently reported how the hazard line despite being provided by the Survey of India has been omitted in the CZMP. The recent draft CRZ Notification, 2018, published by the Union Environment Ministry for public comments, says the hazard line has been demarcated by the Survey of India (SOI) and it has been shared with the coastal States/UTs through the NCSCM.
The Collector, who patiently heard the concerns raised by the fishermen, concluded that he would forward the objections to the Department of Environment. He, however, refused to declare the public hearing as cancelled. Later, speaking to Express at his office, Anbuselvan said: “I will make a note of all these points and forward it to the Department of Environment,” he said. To a specific query, he said the Chennai public hearing is deemed as ‘conducted’.
Similar noisy scenes were witnessed at public hearings conducted in Thiruvallur, Kanniyakumari and Nagapattinam too. Fishermen leader Sahaya Alex from Kanniyakumari said that about 500 people had gone and staged a protest before walking out. In Thiruvallur, the public hearing was attended by only 24 people. Authorities wound it up within 30 minutes.