In a contentious move, an expert appraisal committee (EAC) of the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests has recommended granting of Environmental Clearance and CRZ clearance for the Phase-III expansion of the Kamarajar Port Ltd (KPL) in Ennore.
In a meeting last month, the EAC had recommended the clearance based on the draft Coastal Zone Management Plan (CZMP) 2018. However, environmental activists termed it illegal as a writ petition against the draft CZMP was pending in the Madras High Court.
Also, they said that a project cannot be recommended for clearance based on a ‘wrong map’, especially one that has not been notified by the Ministry. Although the EAC’s recommendation for granting the clearance is subject to the final outcome of cases filed against the expansion at the National Green Tribunal, activists and lawyers say the decision itself is flawed.
“As per the CRZ notification, 2011, all proposals have to be evaluated as per the approved Coastal Zone Management Plan (CZMP) which, in this case, dates back to 1996. The new CZMP is only a draft and a recommendation based on a map that is not notified by the MoEF cannot be accepted as it is not factual,” Pooja Kumar of Coastal Resource Centre, told.
“Until the new map is notified and approved, this recommendation is illegal. This is only a draft plan. You can’t give clearance based on this map,” said an environmental lawyer, who did not want to be named. “Also, whatever they have mentioned as river front activity, cannot be built there as per the CRZ notification, 2011,” the lawyer added.
After the port management filed for EC and CRZ clearance for the Phase-III expansion of the port, the MoEF committee received a number of representations, following which a two-member sub-committee visited the site on January 5 and 6 this year. The sub-committee submitted its report in the meeting held in April.
The expansion proposals of KPL include an automobile export/import terminal, container terminal, bulk terminal, multi cargo berth and marine liquid terminal.
The minutes of the meeting of the EAC held in May, interestingly, referred to the draft CZMP multiple times. The sub-committee considered the “latest draft CZMP of Tamil Nadu Coastal Zone Management Authority for preparation of the report since there is substantial change in the coastal ecosystem”.
The EAC, while recommending the project for clearance, too noted, “As per the latest map, no development zone shall be maintained 100 m on either side of the Kosasthalaiyar river”.
Ms. Pooja said only parts of the sub-committee report were mentioned in the EAC report. “This report has not been made public. The fisherfolk in the region are demanding that the report be made public immediately and the report of the sub-committee be revisited,” she said.
She questioned the hurry in recommending the project for clearance. “As per the original map, this is an inter-tidal zone and as per the 2011 notification, no development activities can happen in this zone,” she said.