Ennore SEZ project deviated from approved alignment, encroached waterbody, claim activists

When contacted, the Chief Engineer of the Ennore SEZ project denied the claims of the activists, saying there was no deviation in the alignment. "The allegations are baseless and unfounded," he said.

Published: 14th July 2021 06:49 PM  |   Last Updated: 14th July 2021 06:51 PM   |  A+A-

File photo of fishing boats stranded at Ennore, during the lockdown, in Chennai. (File photo| R Satish Babu

Express News Service

CHENNAI: Deviating entirely from the Union environment ministry-approved alignment for the coal conveyor corridor, TANGEDCO’s Ennore SEZ project is laying a corridor along an unapproved route by dumping illegally transported dredged sea sand and fly ash into water bodies, including the Kosasthalaiyar river’s tidal channel, claim environmental activists from the Save Ennore Creek campaign.

The activists said TANGEDCO has misled Electricity Minister V Senthil Balaji into issuing a statement that all is legal. "An exercise done using a handheld GPS by the Save Ennore Creek campaign has revealed that the ongoing construction has already led to the loss of more than 15 acres of wetlands, including 1.1 acres of the Kosasthalaiyar river. If allowed to proceed, this alignment will claim an additional 2.4 acres of river-spread including mangroves," the campaign said on Wednesday.

The map, created by the activists, showing  the alleged deviation by TANGEDCO from the approved alignment for the coal conveyor corridor and encroaching the Kosasthalai river’s tidal channel. They said handheld GPS devices and Google maps were used for this. The green line is the approved alignment. The red line shows the actual alignment in which the construction is being carried out.

After using an alignment that avoids waterbodies to get an approval, TANGEDCO has illegally altered the alignment without informing the Union environment ministry and gone ahead with a completely different alignment that runs mostly on water bodies, claimed the activists. According to local fisherfolk, Konamudukku Kalvai, the area of the river allegedly being encroached by TANGEDCO, is one of the most biologically productive segments in the area. The presence of mangroves and deep-water habitats make this a sheltered breeding place for prawns. Fishers report a drastic drop in fish catch over the last three months. “Enough is enough. We are going to pursue this to its logical end. We want these encroachments removed, and we want to be fully compensated for the damage done to our source of livelihood,” said RL Srinivasan of Kattukuppam fishing village.

This map generated by Save Ennore Creek campaign, showing the area encroached in the water body. The area painted in red is the encroached area and the area painted in green is the area that would be encroached if the construction continues.

“TANGEDCO’s audacity in misleading the minister and the irrelevance of TNPCB as a regulator spotlights the absence of the rule of law in Tamil Nadu. This is a test case for the new government to walk its talk about providing a clean administration. Given the encouraging steps taken by the government in the appointments of efficient senior environment and forest staff, we are hopeful that the government will ensure that the law prevails in this case,” Save Ennore Creek campaign and the region’s fishers said in a statement.

When contacted, the Chief Engineer of the Ennore SEZ project denied the claims of the activists, saying there was no deviation in the alignment. "The allegations are baseless and unfounded. The construction is going on as per the approved alignment. TANGEDCO is a government body and how can we change the alignment just like that," asked the official.

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