Chennai: In a blatant case of violating Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) rules, fresh constructions have come up on the seashore alongside East Coast Road (ECR) in Muttukadu panchayat limits.
Several bungalows have cropped up dangerously close to sea waters (as close as 30-50 meters)! Some of the high-profile residents of Chennai reportedly own benami property along this stretch, once ravaged by tsunami in 2004. Environmentalists and local fishermen residing in nearby Karikattukuppam village now fear that these constructions in the ecologically sensitive area would call for another disaster.
The land, where these constructions are, is developed and promoted by Olive Resorts and couple of years ago, the Mahabalipuram (Mamallapuram) Local Planning Authority had locked and sealed the property for violating CRZ norms. However, when the Deccan Chronicle visited the place, workers were seen carrying out construction works and building material were piled-up at multiple housing plots. There were 9-10 bungalows and some were in the final stage of completion.
Jaya Palayan, president, South Indian Federation of Fishermen Societies (SIFFS), said the land falls in CRZ-3, which as per the 2011 CRZ notification, declares area up to 200 metres from High Tide Line (HTL) on the landward side in case of seafront as ‘No Development Zone (NDZ)’.“No construction is permitted within NDZ except for repairs or reconstruction of existing authorised structure of dwelling units of traditional coastal communities. There is no way luxury bungalows can be built in the area. I have fought for the cause several times, but people involved are too powerful. I have filed a case in Madras high court, but our advocate got compromised. Only, the state government can salvage the plundering of the environment”, he said and added that he was preparing to launch another round of legal battle.
A local fisherman, who preferred anonymity, said: “Post 2004-tsunami, our village Karikattukuppam which was close to the sea was moved three-km away on safety grounds by officials. That being so, how can officials permit bungalows right-up at the sea. The fishermen, who raised their voice in the past, were bullied and false cases were registered against them and arrested because of which the campaign lost steam”.
Former Greenpeace campaigner Nityanand Jayaraman said Muttukadu is a clear case of CRZ violation. “Obviously, these things happen with the active participation of officials in local bodies and revenue authorities. In fact, not just Muttukadu, the coastline is riddled with violations with Chennai Corporation and local bodies being prime violators. We will be shortly bringing court a document on the number of CRZ violations in Chennai corporation limits”, he said.
When DC showed the photographs and brought the issue to the notice of R. Kirlosh Kumar, director, Town and Country Planning, he said necessary action would be taken. “I will tell my office in Mahabalipuram and district environmental engineer (DEE) to initiate necessary steps. Firstly, the area needs to be surveyed and find out substantiate CRZ violation. If it is, we will issue 30-day notice and then go for lock and seal of the property”. When asked how permission could be given, the official said for residential building (G+ 1) the local panchayat was authorised to give permission, but the department could initiate action if there was a CRZ violation. Despite repeated attempts, there was no response from Olive Resorts.
Owners allege harassment
People, who constructed bungalows and purchased plots, claim there was no violation and they are being unnecessarily harassed. Speaking to the Deccan Chronicle, Mr Shaik Hyder, an advocate said his client Chaman-E-Ali, an international architect, said his client has obtained permission from Muttukadu panchayat and Kancheepuram collector, who heads the District Coastal Zone Management Authority, for constructing his house.
“If the area falls under CRZ, why did they allow Olive Resorts to market the property and sell plots. Why have officials approved our housing plans and why haven’t officials stopped us after we laid the foundation. They allowed us to built the house and when we are about to occupy it they are saying its CRZ violation”, he said and added that in 2014 the Madras high court ordered stay in their favor on a complaint filed by a private individual alleging CRZ violation.
Another residential project also violates CRZ norms It’s not just the sea, there is a tidal influenced creek in the area. As per the CRZ notification, 2011, 100 metres along the tidal influenced water body or width of the creek whichever is less is also earmarked as ‘No Development Zone’.
Both Olive Resorts and another residential project promoted by Agni Estates and Foundations Pvt Ltd have violated it. A backside compound wall of the Agni project is constructed right next to the creek, the photographic evidence available with the DC shows....