Crucial victory for Ennore fishermen, as MoEFCC says wetlands more important than development

Local fishermen heave a sigh of relief as Union Environment Ministry disallows Kamarajar Port to encroach on ecologically fragile Ennore creek.

An untiring battle of the Ennore fishermen to save Kosasthalaiyar river from the clutches of Kamarajar Port proved successful as they scored an important victory after the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC) rejected the Port’s proposal to locate port facilities on the eastern banks of the Kosasthalaiyar’s backwaters in Ennore Creek.

The fisherfolk, however, said that their battle to have all of Ennore Creek declared off limits for industrial projects will intensify.

As part of the Phase 3 expansion, Kamarajar port had planned to develop facilities like office, commercial buildings and parking terminals on the eastern part of the ecologically fragile inter-tidal salt pans. Environmental and Coastal Regulatory Zone (CRZ) clearances to the port for its Phase III expansion dated October 30 2018, ordered relocation of these facilities. The environment ministry corroborated that and ruled, “The water bodies and wetlands are more important than the development activity.”

Eastern part secured, what about the west?

The Union Ministry has allowed Kamarajar Port to construct facilities like coal yards on the western part of the Ennore wetlands. The expert appraisal committee that recommended expansion appraised the project based on Draft Coastal Zone Management Plans prepared in 2018, instead of using the approved 1996 plans. “These draft maps do not accurately show the extent of the wetlands. The river does not only expand to the eastern floodplains. We have been asking for the draft maps to be corrected, and drawn in line with the natural state of the river. We have not seen the final maps” said R.L. Srinivasan from Kaatukuppam, a key stakeholder village in Ennore Creek.

Over the last two decades, Ennore Creek has lost more than 1000 acres of its wetland expanse.  “The main demand of the fisherfolk is that no more of the wetlands here must be diverted for any purpose. Our life, livelihood and security depend on it. It is good news that the eastern side has been protected. We will not allow for construction on the western side.” said D. Selvaraj, a fisher elder from the Ennore Anaithu Meenava Grama Kootamaipu.

[The above text is based on a release made by the Ennore All Fishing Village Association, and the content shared has been republished with minimal edits.]

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