Tamil Nadu: Fishermen protest as Kosasthalaiyar pollution put them in ‘waist-deep’ trouble

Hundreds of fisherfolk on Wednesday formed a human chain in the Kosasthalaiyar river demanding withdrawal of the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) map that denies the existence of the Ennore creek.

Published: 04th January 2018 02:19 AM  |   Last Updated: 04th January 2018 09:25 AM   |  A+A-

Fishermen of Kattupakkam protesting against the dumping of ash in the Kosasthalaiyar by thermal power plants at Ennore in Chennai, on Wednesday | P Jawahar

By Express News Service

CHENNAI: Hundreds of fisherfolk on Wednesday formed a human chain in the Kosasthalaiyar river demanding withdrawal of the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) map that denies the existence of the Ennore creek. They held banners that read “This is river, not land.”

They chose to stage the protest in waist-deep water to demonstrate that the river was alive and had to be protected. Children from the community scooped up dissolved fly ash from the riverbed to show the extent of pollution in the creek.

“Fly ash and dredged material dumped by the Kamarajar Port and TANGEDCO must be removed immediately. The river must be dredged and deepened. The government must stop further expansion of power stations that keep polluting our waterbodies,” said RL Srinivasan, a fisherman from Kattukuppam near Ennore creek.

The fisherfolk said their fight to save the Ennore creek was a fight against corruption in high places and lack of accountability in government. “The ‘Neer Satyagraham’ (jal satyagraha) is the first of our direct actions to hold the government responsible for protecting 6500 acres of creek that is getting exploited. We will escalate our protests if the government refuses to uphold the law and protect our river,” said D Selvaraj, an elderly fisherman and leader from Kattukuppam.

In July 2017, the State Coastal Zone Management Authority claimed that the originally approved CRZ map for Ennore declaring the entire region as a “No Development Zone” was replaced by an updated map in which the entire creek is shown as a petrochem park. The right to information (RTI) responses subsequently exposed this map to be fraudulent with no approval from the Central government.
Kamarajar Port, L&T Port, NTECL Vallur, HPCL, BPCL and TANGEDCO used the updated map to continue building infrastructures in and around the creek.

The fisherfolk demanded that authorities use the 1996 Union government-approved CRZ map to appraise all future proposals, and remove existing encroachments. Fearing further encroachment, the fisherfolk have written to the expert appraisal committee of the Ministry of Environment.

More than 1,100 acres of the Ennore creek consisting of salt pans and mangroves have already been converted into industrial infrastructure by various government and private industries leading to an intense pollution of the river.

Encroachments in the creek have drastically altered hydrology, leading to flooding in upstream areas. In October and November, parts of Athipattu and Nandiambakkam were flooded and waterlogged. Further encroachments will severely increase the risk of disastrous flooding for nearly 10 lakh people residing in Chennai and Tiruvallur districts, the fisherfolk warned.

“The expert appraisal committee has confirmed that it will conduct a site visit on January 5 to verify the legality and environmental acceptability of the Kamarajar Port’s proposal to divert 1,000 acres of the Ennore creek for port infrastructure. The committee will meet fisherfolk and other complainants and stakeholders on January 6,” said activist Nityanand Jayaraman.

Fight against corruption

The fisherfolk said their fight to save the Ennore creek was a fight against corruption in high places and lack of accountability in government. “The ‘Neer Satyagraham’ (jal satyagraha) is the first of our direct actions to hold the government responsible for protecting 6500 acres of creek that is getting exploited.

We will escalate our protests if the government refuses to uphold the law and protect our river,” said D Selvaraj, an elderly fisherman and leader from Kattukuppam. The fisherfolk demanded that authorities use the 1996 Union government-approved CRZ map to appraise future proposals, and remove existing encroachments

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