CHENNAI: The southern bench of the National Green Tribunal (NGT) on Monday issued a notice to the Chennai Metropolitan Water Supply and Sewerage Board for choking the Buckingham Canal in Ennore even as cyclonic storm Nivar is likely to bring very heavy rainfall to Chennai and neighbouring districts.
Taking suo motu cognizance of an article published in The New Indian Express on November 6, the tribunal has constituted a joint committee to visit the spot and assess the damage caused.
The committee would consist of senior officials from the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board, Tamil Nadu State Coastal Zone Management Authority, Chennai Metro Water, Public Works Department and the Tiruvallur district collector. It is mandated to submit a factual and action taken report.
The bench, comprising judicial member Justice K Ramakrishnan and expert member Saibal Dasgupta, said it was satisfied that there was substantial threat to the environment. Chennai Metro Water had illegally dumped hundreds of tonnes of dredged soil from Ennore Creek into the Buckingham Canal impeding the flow of water. After The New Indian Express highlighted the illegality, a clean-up was taken up.
However, PWD engineers on the ground said the work is moving at a snail's pace. Even two days back, the Tamil Nadu Transmission Corporation Limited (TANTRANSCO), which is laying transmission towers in the area, built a road across the Buckingham Canal to facilitate movement of heavy machinery. "I had to request TANTRANSCO and Chennai Metro Water contractors each day to fast track the clean-up work and not lay new roads across the canal. Already, the width of the canal is compromised and on top of it dumping of dredged material has impeded the water flow," a PWD official said.
On the flood scare, the official said there is another connection between the Buckingham Canal and Kosasthalaiyar river, which would carry the flood water and in the event of extremely heavy rainfall the surplus water will have to flow through this choked portion of the canal. "Some portion of the canal is dredged to allow surplus water to flow. There should not be much of a problem. But, the canal has to be restored at the earliest," he asserted.
Chennai Metro Water is carrying out dredging activity to lay an underwater pipeline to convey treated water from the 45 MLD Tertiary Treatment and Reverse Osmosis (TTRO) plant at Kodungaiyur to the industries at the Manali-Ennore corridor. The Union Environment Ministry, while granting Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) clearance, has detailed specific conditions which say, "The project work will not affect marine/creek environment during construction and operational phases. There will be no blockages and free flow of water will be maintained in the canal/creek during the process of laying of pipelines." These have been blatantly violated by Chennai Metro Water.
Meanwhile, the NGT bench has also formed another joint committee to look into the status of the Buckingham Canal in central parts of Chennai. The canal, which is playing an important role in Chennai flood mitigation, is polluted and choked with plastic and solid waste.