CHENNAI: In a serious allegation and a major expose, a report by Save Ennore Creek campaign has stated that 667 acres of the Kosasthalai River’s backwaters in Ennore have been encroached upon by Central and State government’s Public Sector Undertakings (PSUs), since the 2015 floods.
The report recorded visual difference in the satellite images of various water bodies and wetlands in the backwaters and has contrasted the images of 2015 with that of 2020, which showed industrial, commercial or dumping encroachments in the water bodies.
The report was released on Thursday ahead of Union Home Minister Amit Shah’s visit to the city to inaugurate a new berth in Kamarajar Port. It also stated that the Central PSUs, including Kamarajar Port (KPL), NTECL Vallur and Bharat Petroleum (BPCL), had converted 417 acres into industrial real estate since 2015.
Chennai-based activists from the campaign said that they have sent a copy of the report along with a letter to Shah, drawing his attention to the encroachments that endanger the lives of people living in the region.
Meanwhile, a senior official from the Kamarajar Port has denied all claims of encroachment. “We have not encroached upon any land. All land that we have was given to us by various government departments,” he said, adding that the port has cleared off any past encroachments and restored the land.
What are the risks?
Over 10 lakh people living across four Assembly constituencies – Ponneri, Madhavaram, RK Nagar and Thiruvottiyur – will face heightened risks of disastrous flooding due to the encroachments, read a statement from the campaign organisers.
“Sagarmala, Bharatmala and Make in India projects have destroyed the Ennore-Pulicat wetlands, and impoverished fisherfolk. The Centre must adopt a long-term outlook and see the wisdom in maintaining wetlands, especially tidal water bodies, that will protect the region from floods, salinity intrusion and sea level rise,” reads the letter addressed to Shah.
Requesting the Union Home Minister to withdraw his endorsement of Kamarajar Port, the organisers of the campaign added that the port had single-handedly eaten into 114 acres of the Ennore wetland and urged the Central government to abandon any schemes in the region, involving diversion of wetlands.
Earlier this month, the KPL was fined Rs 4 crore for illegally encroaching in the wetlands by dumping contaminated sand and smothering mangroves.
The report also said that NTECL Vallur had encroached on 203 acres to construct a new coal ash dump and blocked important canals such as the Kuruvimedu Kalvai, while BPCL blocked the Maan Kalvai when it encroached on 100 acres of salt pans within the backwaters to set up its oil storage terminal.
The report added that Adani Ports had proposed for an eight-fold expansion of the Kattupalli Port, which involves creation of 2,000 acres of land inside the sea, and over 1,000 acres of land by encroaching on the Ennore-Pulicat wetlands. “Interfering with the Kosasthalai river’s wetlands is a dangerous proposition,” the report warned.