Chennai: State coastal authority halts ECR stormwater drain project – The New Indian Express

Chennai News

Express News Service

CHENNAI: In a big blow to Greater Chennai Corporation, Tamil Nadu State Coastal Zone Management Authority has issued a “stop work” notice to the ambitious stormwater drain project being executed along the East Coast Road from Kottivakkam to Uthandi.

Official sources confirmed that the notice was served to Corporation Commissioner G Prakash both by e-mail and in-person on Thursday. The action was initiated as the corporation failed to comply with the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) rules.  

Although a significant portion of the project area falls in the CRZ area, the corporation has started the construction without obtaining mandatory prior CRZ clearance.   

“The corporation did not obtain prior CRZ clearance. Recently, the corporation has submitted an incomplete application seeking CRZ clearance, which was turned down. Since the work has already commenced, the clearance can not be given. The provision of granting post facto clearances does not exist now. Jurisdictional district environmental engineer has been instructed to ensure status quo is maintained on the ground,” a senior official in Tamil Nadu Coastal Zone Management Authority told Express.

On December 4, the southern bench of National Green Tribunal (NGT) has directed the Coastal Zone Management Authority to take appropriate action against the authorities who are engaged in this project, if it is found that the project was in violation of any environmental laws namely, the CRZ Notification, 2011 including stopping of the project till necessary clearance is obtained. “We have acted according to rules,” the official said. 

The corporation is under pressure from KfW Development Bank, a state-owned entity in Germany which is funding the project. On December 16, several residents welfare associations from ECR along with field experts petitioned the Central Complaints Office of KfW stating that the project was ‘unwarranted’ and being constructed without statutory permissions. Sources said KfW has reportedly questioned the corporation and sought explanation.      

As per norms, stormwater drains are permissible activities under the CRZ Notification as long as no component of the project falls in areas classified as CRZ 1A (Ecologically Sensitive). Projects such as concrete stormwater drains are not permissible within CRZ 1A areas. The stormwater drain outfalls for this project are located near the water line in areas designated as CRZ 1A – turtle nesting area.

“This project requires prior CRZ clearance based on an application that includes a rapid EIA. Had this application been made, the component falling within CRZ 1A would have been prohibited. The ongoing SWD project is unlicensed and illegal,” said environmental activist Nityanand Jayaraman. 

Experts, including members of the indigenous fishing community who have a deep understanding of the local area, have said that the sandy nature of the project area does not need any major civil intervention for facilitating drainage of rainwater. 

Corporation Commissioner G Prakash and Chief Engineer L Nandakumar were not available for comments.