CHENNAI: The Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC) of the Union Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change has recommended granting of Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) and environment clearance for the phase-3 expansion of Kamarajar Port Limited allegedly on the basis of an ‘unapproved’ draft map prepared by the National Centre for Sustainable Coastal Management (NCSCM).
The CRZ Notification, 2011, stipulates that all proposals have to be evaluated against the approved Coastal Zone Management Plan (CZMP). However, the Kamarajar Port’s expansion proposal falls inside the tidal Ennore creek demarcated as a ‘No Development Zone’ in the approved CZMP of 1996.
At the 31st meeting of EAC (Infra-2) held on May 29, details of which have been uploaded on the ministry’s website, the port’s proposal was approved based on a two-member sub-committee report. The minutes state the sub-committee considered the latest draft CZMP of the Tamil Nadu Coastal Zone Management Authority prepared by the NCSCM for preparation of the report since there is substantial change in the coastal ecosystem.
The port, in 2016, engaged the Institute of Remote Sensing (IRS) in Anna University to prepare the CRZ map as per the 2011 notification. This map is a part of the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) submitted for expansion. The sub-committee has taken the CRZ map prepared by the IRS and the draft CZMP of NCSM and superimposed one on the other to arrive at actual field position. Besides, Google map of the proposed expansion area was also taken.
Pooja Kumar of Coastal Resource Centre termed the EAC decision “disastrous”. “NCSCM maps are incomplete... A writ petition challenging these maps is pending before Madras High Court. Majority of ecologically sensitive salt pans have been omitted in the latest map, which is not yet approved by Environment Ministry. How can EAC of same ministry approve such a big project based on unapproved map?” she asked, adding that the issue was raised in Parliament by DMK MP MK Kanimozhi and fisherfolk had informed the sub-committee when it visited on January 5-6.
P Radhakrishnan, Deputy General Manager (Civil), Kamarajar Port Limited, said a detailed EIA was prepared by Anna University in 2016, which forms basis for approval. It was compared with the latest draft CZMP (unapproved) for further clarity. Besides, port officials claimed before EAC that the project site falls in inter-tidal zones in CRZ-IB, CRZ-III and CRZ IV areas, as per the IRS map. The proposed facilities fall under the limits of Kamarajar Port.
“As per the CRZ notification 2011, the proposed facilities are permissible activities under CRZ III and there are no eco-sensitive areas. Though the Buckingham canal and the Kosasthalaiyar river and a few mangrove patches are in and around the project area, the development of the bulk terminal stack yard, conveyor routing will be constructed without affecting them,” the official said.