In November 2015, Madras received its strongest rainfall in a hundred years, causing a major flood in the city. Activists attributed the intensity of flooding to an illegal construction that has drowned the city’s gutters that are natural opportunities.
Now there is evidence to support their demands. A comparison of the 1996 Coastal Zone Management Plan maps – which defines areas along the coast that can be opened to construction – with current satellite maps shows that the government itself is the biggest delinquent of its own Standards along with the largest estuary in the city, the Ennore Creek.
But that is not all. Coastal activists had initially approached several government authorities to obtain copies of the 1996 plan, but authorities said they had not owned it. After finally getting a copy of the plan, activists accused the government now of removing or concealing the document from approving illegal construction along the creek.
The coastal zone management plan regulates development activity in the area less than 500 meters from the high tide line, a geospatial demarcation highest point reached by the tide along the coast. It is approved by the state. The last official Tamil Nadu plan was developed in 1996.
Although coastal activists have identified violations of various state and central projects along the Ennore stream in the Tiruvallur district, the exact extent of the violations was unknown. This is because the coastal zone management plan for Ennore Creek was not available for public review. In fact, of the 31 cards that make up this plan across the state, only 11 are available online. Coastal activists could not get the other government organizations 20.
In response to a question about the right to information submitted in September 2014, the Tamil Nadu District Coastal Management Authority said that it did not have a copy of the coastal zone management plan for Ennore Creek.
Activists conducted an inspection of the records at the state’s coastal authority office earlier this year, but have not found the plane. Activists said that this meant that the authority had cleared the construction projects along the ravine without consulting the official map of the coastal regulation zone.
This reporter tried to contact the director of the Department of Tamil Nadu by means of telephone, text messages and email request asking the management authorities how coastal the district, which controls did not have a copy of the plan approved management of Coastal areas in 1996. No response has been received.
Activists from the Coastal Resource Center, an Engo in Chennai, finally got a copy of the plan from another social activist, Jesu, who works with the coastal communities of Nagapattinam in southern Tamil Nadu. Jesu had filed a right to information petition with the Department of Environment seeking copies of the plane shortly after the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami hit the coast of Tamil Nadu. Taking into account the current satellite image map of Google Earth Ennore Creek with activists found that 1,090 acres of the 8,000-acre protected wetlands along Ennore Creek were invaded by government units and public sector plants.
Activists allege that state authorities have either suppressed or disguised the 1996 plan that illegal construction can go ahead.
The map on the left shows the approved plan for coastal zone management, 1996, while the right card invasion data. (Credit: The Coastal Resources Center).