Fly ash leaks continue on Ennore Creek

A pipeline carrying fly ash along the Ennore Creek burst even as media, taken on a tour of the Creek to expose encroachments on the riverbed, were in the vicinity.

Pipeline bursts on the Ennore Creek have become a common phenomenon, resulting in the Kosasthalaiyar riverbed becoming a cesspool of fly ash. The pollutants have raised the height of the riverbed.

Staff of the North Chennai Thermal Power Plant soon arrived on the scene, and began fixing the leak. Neither of them wore any safety equipment and used a wet handkerchief to tie up a part of the broken pipe and then proceeded to use their bare hands to plug the leak with some iron sheets. Even as they were fixing it, another small leak sprung up in another pipe next to it.

Despite orders from the National Green Tribunal (NGT) and claims made by Tangedco, the leaks continue to pollute the riverbed. However, at one place where some amount of fly ash was cleared, mangroves have started making a comeback.

The Ennore Fishers and Save Ennore Creek campaign allege that Kamarajar Port Ltd is building a bund next to the railway track on the riverbed. They say that KPL does not have permission to raise the height of the wetland and build a railway yard.

“At least 500 acres have already been levelled in preparation of a railway yard, a Free Trade Warehouse zone and a coal yard. The project, which claims to be part of the prestigious Sagarmala scheme, does not environmental clearance from the MoEF or consent to operate from the TNPCB,” environmental activist Nithyanand Jayaraman said.

But senior officials at KPL deny that they are violating any environmental regulations. “We have got CRZ clearance. We got 650 acres of land and we paid for it, but we are not using it. We are only reclaiming some land and doing preparatory work. During monsoons, when the water level rises, it could lead to derailment on the tracks. We are not building a yard there, its only reclamation to protect the railway line embankment,” the official said.

The official claimed that the district environmental engineer had given clearance for the work after inspection following a complaint about encroachment raised with the District Collector. “We have not carried out work in the disputed area. Our activity is away from the waterbody and the coordinates mapped according to the CRZ map,” the official added. “It is beyond the ‘no development zone’,” he claimed.

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