CHENNAI: At a time when the State government is pushing for water conservation on all fronts, Chennai Metropolitan Development Authority (CMDA) is likely to reclassify 54 acres of catchment area of Red Hills reservoir to allow industries to come up.
In August, Tamil Nadu Small Industries Development Corporation (SIDCO) had applied to the authority for reclassification of this area to facilitate development of an industrial zone for women. While growth of industries is important to the State, encroaching the space which diverts excess rainwater to a reservoir will have disastrous effects, warn experts.
D Karthikeyan, CMDA Member-Secretary told Express they are yet to take a decision on the project, but as other structures are already present in the catchment area, he said it was doable to allow an industry to develop there. “Just because it is earmarked as catchment area does not mean buildings cannot come up on it. Only a small portion of this area will be used even if the area is reclassified. The reservoir will not be touched anyway. But as an individual, I cannot take a decision. The authority has to come together to decide on this matter,” he said.
Sources privy to the matter said that existing residential houses and industries in the catchment area are illegal structures which were built without approval. “A decade ago, a portion of the catchment area was reclassified from agricultural to industrial use, but the government order stated that no structure should be built and it should be maintained as open space reservation land,” the source said.
Four reservoirs provide around 60 per cent of drinking water to Chennai. As Poondi reservoir is fast filling up with Krishna water and has crossed the one tmcft mark, water is now being diverted to Red Hills reservoir. Catchment area of any reservoir is of crucial importance as it directs stagnant rainwater into the structure.Many activists and residents have written to CMDA to register their strong opposition several months ago when the matter came to light.
It is learnt that NGOs such as Citizen consumer and civic Action Group (CAG) and Arappor Iyakkam have written to CMDA Member-Secretary opposing the reclassification. “We received information from sources in the State government that in a month or two the reclassification will be made official. Just after Chennai battled one of its worst water crisis, the government is going forward with such a disastrous plan,” said David Manohar of Arappor Iyakkam.
Also, CMDA’s reply to an RTI filed by Manohar said six organisations and individuals alone had objected to the reclassification of a water body at Nandambakkam but did not disclose on how many objected to reclassification of Red Hills reservoir’s catchment area.
Activists alleged that CMDA is withholding information to go on with the project. Initially, officials maintained they did not receive any objection from the public on the matter, but recently they said they received letters of objection from six persons.