Nov 27, 2014
Times of India
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CHENNAI: A month from today will mark a decade since the tsunami devastated the country’s eastern shoreline, including the city’s coast, and vast parts of South Asia, killing more than 2,30,000 people. If the tsunami were to strike now, the impact would be much more catastrophic because of environmental violations that have wrecked our beaches, environmentalists say.
From Marina to Neelankarai, 14 acres of beach has been lost due to violations by Corporation of Chennai, according to a report by NGO The Coastal Resource Centre. Although various stakeholders including government bodies, private agencies and the public played a part in the degradation of the city’s beaches, the report says the corporation is the “main violator or abettor”.
Environment activist Nityanand Jayaraman and K Saravanan, a fisherman from Urur Kuppam, highlighted 21 places where the corporation flouted Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) rules, from the southern bank of Cooum at Marina to Periya Neelankarai, a 12km stretch.
Violations include dumping of construction debris and building illegal roads and concrete structures. The fallout of these violations are manifold, from harming the nesting of the endangered Olive Ridely turtle, to soil erosion and altering of the natural course of the beach and sea. The offences are systemic and expose an intent to develop more infrastructure on the shore and create a coastal thoroughfare that will wreak havoc on the ecosystem, Jayaraman said.
In its most recent violation, the corporation astoundingly stuck plastic chairs in a concrete base, ostensibly to make a ‘viewing gallery’ for visitors to gaze at the sea in Neelankarai. Before that, corporation workers erected streetlights on the shoreline in Palavakkam. All of this was done without the knowledge of top officials in Ripon Buildings. The corporation has now removed the chairs and lampposts.
“It was done without instructions. There is a lack of awareness that anything built along the coast requires CRZ clearance,” a senior corporation official said. “We have to make officials aware of the rules. We will take action and if there is financial loss, those responsible will bear the cost.”
The report said builders had dumped tonnes of boulders and debris on the Santhome-Pattinapakkam beach in July. The corporation stopped this but the debris is still on the sand. The public works department had dumped debris on the same stretch last year, and later removed it after Saravanan petitioned the National Green Tribunal.
“The corporation does not dump debris on the beaches,” the senior official said. “We don’t violate CRZ rules.” He said the corporation had sought clearance from the State Coastal Zone Management Authority (SCZMA) for the upgrading of Marina Loop Road.
However, Jayaraman describes SCZMA as a toothless authority. “It has not even taken action to make the corporation restore the beaches to their original condition,” he said.
But the corporation’s plans to ‘beautify beaches’ remains a worry. Marine biologist T D Babu said sandy beaches are a gift. “If the authorities want to beautify beaches, they should just keep them clean,” he said. “We have not learnt any lessons from the tsunami.”