German bank defends ECR storm water drain project, says it will protect Chennai from flooding
"Although the project area is on the shores of the Bay of Bengal and consists mainly of sandy soil, without the storm water drainage project there will be more flooding in future," said officials.
CHENNAI: Officials of the German Development Bank (KfW), which is financing the Greater Chennai Corporation's controversial storm water drain (SWD) project along East Coast Road, have downplayed the environmental concerns and said the project is necessary to prepare Chennai for the challenges of further urbanisation and climate change.
Replying to multiple letters sent by civil society organisations and ECR resident welfare associations, KfW director South Asia Carolin Gassner and principal portfolio manager Rainer Sunnen said, "In light of the concerns raised, we have reviewed the project again and also discussed the issues with the Greater Chennai Corporation. Although the project area is located on the shores of the Bay of Bengal and consists mainly of sandy soil, without the storm water drainage project there will be more flooding in the future."
The officials said the degree of urbanisation and thus densification will increase in the area following the pattern of the past decennia. Due to the ongoing climate change, extreme rainfall events have increased in the past and will continue to increase in the upcoming years.
"Our calculations show that the sandy soil cannot absorb enough rainwater during heavy rains and therefore a storm water drainage system is required already shown in the catastrophic 2015 floods, but also in recent heavy rainfall events. The project design has incorporated several specialised elements to ensure that only excess runoff is discharged into the sea, harnessing the natural infiltration capacity of soil to the maximum. Among these are the specialised rainwater harvesting blocks which will be installed at 20 locations in the project area," KfW said.
With regard to violation of CRZ norms, KfW said issues like the question as to whether the project requires any CRZ clearance or whether it will have any environmental impact on the aquifer and coastal zone are being dealt with by the National Green Tribunal.
"We currently expect a decision on how to proceed on these issues from the NGT in early March. We are in close communication with GCC to ensure compliance with national environmental regulations and international standards," officials said.
The German officials have asked civil society organisations opposing the project to contact the Consultative Committee established by the Chennai Corporation. "We as KfW are the financing bank but GCC is the implementer and owner of the project. Therefore, we request you to place any further complaint directly in the Consultative Committee or to the official grievance office of GCC."
The southern bench of the NGT has put a temporary halt on the project till March first week for violating CRZ norms. The Tamil Nadu Coastal Zone Management Authority on December 23 issued a stop work order. The tribunal has appointed a joint committee and directed it to determine whether the corporation continued construction even after the stop work order.
The NGT committee had filed its interim report where the committee found that prima facie, the corporation needed CRZ clearance and didn't obtain it. For the final report, the committee was to superimpose the design on the Coastal Zone Management Plan (CZMP) maps and conclusively state whether the project fell in the CRZ since this report is technically an "interim report".
The German Development Ministry, based on complaints from a group of MPs from the German Parliament, has ordered a fresh independent assessment over alleged CRZ violations and the project's alleged impact on turtle nesting grounds.