ECR Extension: ECR extension faces new hurdles due to environmental violations, delays | Chennai News
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ECR Extension: ECR extension faces new hurdles due to environmental violations, delays | Chennai News

Chennai: Fresh challenges have emerged to the expansion of the East Coast Road (ECR) with environmental activists and fishermen from the area submitting fresh evidence before the National Environment Tribunal (NGT) alleging ecological violations. Petitioner K Saravanan has produced photographs suggesting that the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) has illegally dumped earth and quarry debris in the ecologically sensitive tidal zones of Odaiyur Lake, located between Kalpakkam and Marakkanam on this stretch. According to the petitioner, the area falls within the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) and the rules prohibit any filling activity in these zones due to their unique habitat and biological importance, especially seagrass beds and intertidal mudflats. Saravanan said the NHAI’s action contradicts its own status report filed in April, which stated that water flow would be hampered only on one side of the lagoon. However, recent evidence shows that both sides of the lagoon were blocked, which severely restricted tidal exchange. This restriction, Saravanan said, deprives the lagoon of essential nutrients and sediments carried by the tides, threatening the ecosystem. In its response, the NHAI admitted that the construction of the cofferdam was planned in two phases to ensure free flow of natural tidal water, but the private company entrusted with the task undertook work on the northern side without realising the impact and was advised to partially stop the work. Accordingly, on July 3, the NGT directed the NHAI to remove the cofferdam on the northern side, which had already been constructed, before completing the work on the southern side. Notably, the Mamallapuram-Puducherry section of the ECR expansion has already faced several delays due to disputes between the state and union governments. The issue of widening the road to a four-lane expressway was resolved only in 2022. D Srirangan, a resident of Kottivakkam, said the ongoing environmental issues have complicated the already troubled history of the project. “We hope the NHAI will resolve these issues soon, especially since accidents are on the rise on this stretch.”

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