CHENNAI: Take a stroll on the pristine beaches along East Coast Road and the unmistakeable smell of fresh paint wafting through the air and buzzing construction activity will quickly grab your attention.
Swanky bungalows, each measuring a minimum of 4,000 square feet, can be seen coming up on survey numbers 107 and 108 located within 10 metres from the High Tide Line (HTL) of the sea at Muttukadu. Giant swimming pools, lush lawns and spacious balconies overseing the Bay of Bengal are among features of these structures, which are being raised in violation of Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) rules.
According to the Coastal Zone Management Plan maps of Chengalpattu district, which Express reviewed, the whole area of survey numbers 107 and 108 has been classified as CRZ-3 and is located within 200 metres from the HTL.
As per CRZ Notification, 2011, area up to 200 metres from the HTL on the landward side in case of seafront is to be earmarked as “No Development Zone.” No construction shall be permitted, except for repairs of existing authorised structures such as the dwelling units of traditional coastal communities.
However, none of the owners of these bungalows belongs to such traditional coastal community. Fishermen rights activist Saravanan Kasinathan told Express that these violations are typical to that of “Olive Beach” layout located down south of Muttukadu near Kovalam. The Madras High Court had, last month, declared Olive layout as ‘unauthorised’ and ordered demolition of five bungalows coming up there after a local fisherman Murugan filed a writ petition based on reports which appeared in Express.
‘Pandemic delaying demolition activities’
Residents of Karikattukuppam are constantly troubled by severe sea erosion, even since Olive layout was built and a seawall was constructed to protect its bungalows. During high tide, stones from the seawall get accumulated in the boat parking area of Karikattukuppam, affecting fishing activity. On Wednesday, a pile of boulders were seen standing between the fishing boats and the sea.
Though its been over a month since the court passed the demolition order, the authorities are yet to raze down the structures. When contacted, district authorities said the delay was owing to the pandemic and that they were planning to bring down the structures next month.
The modus operandi of all the violators is the same. According to local residents, owners of the new sea-facing buildings obtain ‘permission’ from the Muttukadu panchayat. However, the divisional bench of the Madras High Court led by Justices MM Sundresh and Krishnan Ramasamy has said that the panchayat president does not have any authority to issue such planning permission on unapproved layouts/plots. “As such, the ‘planning permission’ issued by the panchayat president of Muthukadu is a clear violation and he has acted in excess of his powers.” Besides, survery number 114 (Olive layout) falls within 200 metres of the HTL, which is also the case with suvery number 107 and 108 earmarked as ‘No development Zone’.
KV Giridhar, Director of Department of Environment and member secretary of Tamil Nadu State Coastal Zone Management Authority (TNSCZMA), told Express that a probe would be ordered into the issue and if these constructions are found in violation of CRZ norms, appropriate action would be initiated. “There will be no compromise and nobody will be spared,” he said.Thiruporur taluk tahasildar Ranjini said a detailed survey has already been carried out to identify violations within 200 metres of the HTL. “The report has been forwarded to the government. Olive layout buildings are to be demolished for such violations and any fresh construction will also meet with the same fate,” she said.
Shoreline protection discussion
The Tamil Nadu government has prepared a Comprehensive Shoreline Protection Management Plan and submitted it to the Union Environment Ministry. The ministry’s Expert Appraisal Committee will be discuss the plan in its meeting scheduled for September 30. It is an important document intended to protect the State’s 1,076-km-long shoreline, which is under serious stress owing to man-made intrusions and natural calamities. The State has identified 100 vulnerable sites along the coast.
Under the plan, several protection measures are proposed to be carried out -- like building groyne fields, rubble mound seawalls or combination of both, training walls on river mouths and plantations.
“These measures have proven successful across the world in some of the toughest conditions. Already, the State Water Resources Department and the Public Works Department (PWD) have done substantial work to protect the coast, but there is more to be done,” a senior PWD official said.
The report termed loss of land due to sea erosion as the biggest challenge faced by coastal areas of the State. It said many vital stretches have undergone heavy erosion. The problem gets aggravated during the monsoon when cyclonic storms, surges, depressions, low pressure zones, high waves and tidal actions hit a peak resulting in massive sea erosion.
This, in turn causes irreparable damage, the report said. The entire coastline that runs across 13 districts has been divided into three regions -- Chennai region, Tiruchy region and Madurai region. The Chennai region covers 232.3 km of coastline from Kattupallikuppam in Ennore to Kodiyampalyam in Cuddalore. The government plans to invest Rs 446.82 crore for shoreline protection in this region and build 7,350 m rubble mound seawall (RMS), 62 groynes and 6 training walls.
TOO CLose to the danger line
Bungalows, each measuring a minimum of 4,000 square feet, are coming up within 10 metres from the High Tide Line of the sea at Muttukadu. These are being raised in violation of Coastal Regulation Zone rules. None among the owners of these bungalows belongs to traditional coastal communities. Though the HC ordered demolition of these a month ago, the authorities are yet to raze down the structures.