CHENNAI: State and Central government entities have converted over 1,000 acres of the ecologically sensitive Ennore creek — and have more in the pipeline — in violation of mandatory procedures, alleged activists on Friday in a revelation that raises serious concerns.

The creek’s 8,000-acre water spread area is classified as CRZ-1 (Coastal Regulation Zone), where development is strictly regulated, according to Coastal Zone Management Plan (CZMP) of 1996. As per CRZ notification, this is the only approved map, and the state and district coastal zone management authorities have to refer to it while appraising all applications seeking clearance.

In two separate RTI responses to Coastal Resource Centre, an NGO, the Tiruvallur district Coastal Zone Management Authority (CZMA) and the State CZMA have revealed that neither has a copy of the approved map for Ennore creek. The district authority admitted that it relied solely on the maps submitted by the project proponents.

“The CZMP of 1996 has so far been kept under the carpet. Major establishments like Kamarajar Port and the thermal power plants have got clearances based on unapproved maps prepared by their consultants. This is a serious violation by State and Central public sector undertakings,” said Nityanand Jayaraman of Save Ennore Creek Campaign.

Some of the activities like port and oil storage containers are permitted in CRZ-1, but the basis on which the clearances were obtained was wrong.

Kamarajar Port is now converting 280 acres of waterbody into land for a coal yard, TANGEDCO is also dumping sand and blocking the creek to construct a coal conveyor belt for the Ennore Thermal Power Station and Bharat Petroleum is building a storage facility on 102 acres of the wetland. “Such activities are strictly prohibited in CRZ-1 and clearances can’t be granted as per the CZMP approved in 1996.”

For obtaining clearance, BPCL submitted maps prepared by Institute of Remote Sensing (IRS), according to which the project site falls in CRZ-1(A), CRZ-1(B) and CRZ-3. Based on this map, the State coastal zone management authority has issued clearance with the condition that no activity be carried out in CRZ-1 areas. However, IRS maps are not approved, and CZMP map shows the entire project site falls in CRZ-1 area, which meant clearance shouldn’t have been granted.

Releasing the documents, retired Madras High Court Justice D Hariparanthaman, and former expert member of the National Green Tribunal, R Nagendran, noted that the creek automatically enjoys protection under Wetland Rules, 2010.

Meanwhile, an open letter endorsed by Environmentalist Foundation  of India, Poovulagin Nanbargal, Ilanthamizhagam and Arappor Iyakkam has been sent to chief secretary seeking to further halt encroachment and declare it as a ‘climate sanctuary’.