Society for Conservation of Nature



(Published in 02 may 2018)

Kanniyakumari district of the Tamil Nadu State is situated at the southernmost tip of the Indian sub-continent surrounded by the Bay of Bengal on the eastern side, Indian Ocean on the southern side and the Arabian Sea on the western side. While so, Rajakkamangalam beach is located on the eastern shore of the Arabian Sea abutting Pannaiyoor village on its eastern side. There is a sand dune formed naturally on the shore. All along the sea shore the Kanniyakumari Forest Division had raised casuarina plantations to a length running to a few kilo metres in patches. These man-made plantations were acting as bio-shield against any natural disaster like storm, cyclone or tsunami. When one travels from Rameswaram to Dhanuskodi Arichamunai, good old casuarina plantations could be seen along the shore and the same shelter belt had provided protection when there was tsunami during 2004. As Pannaiyoor village which falls in Agastheeswaram Taluk of Kanniyakumari District of Tamil Nadu state is located on the eastern side of the Rajakkamangalam beach sheltered by the coastal sand dune, it was well protected from any kind of natural disaster. Coastal sand dunes act as natural barrier against wind and waves and protect the inland areas from damage due to storms, cyclones and tsunamis. Sand dunes are important ecosystems and support highly specialized plants and rare and endangered animal species. The sand dunes are stabilized by the vegetation that grows on them binding the sand particles. Sand dunes up to a height of about 20 metres are found along the Tirunelveli, Kanniyakumari and Kancheepuram coasts. The important sand dunes in Tamil Nadu are found in Tiruchendur, Manapad, Ovari and Idinthakarai of Tuticorin District. In Kannniyakumari District, sand dunes are found in Kanyakumari, Kovalam, Chothavilai, Pallamthurai, Sankuthurai, Periakadu, Chinnavilai and Rajakkamangalam. If the sand dune at Rajakkamangalam beach is disturbed, then the entire Pannaiyoor village will be exposed to the vagaries of natural disaster. Naturally occurring tree species like Calophyllum inophyllum, Borassus flabellifer, Pandanus fascicularis, etc., are found there in addition to the herbs like Acalypha indica, Aloe vera, Argemone maxicana, Calotropis gigantea, Leucas aspera, Gisekia pharnaceoides, Ipomoea pescaprae and Tephrosia purpurea.    Under these circumstances, the Ministry of Environment and Forest had granted CRZ clearance on 18.07.2011 to M/S Rajakkamangalam Thurai Fishing harbour Pvt Ltd for the development of Fishing Harbour at Needakarai B Village, Agastheeswaram Taluk, Kanniyakumari District of Tamil Nadu. According to the recommendation of the Tamil Nadu Coastal Zone Management Authority dated 29.06.2010, the project site is in CRZ-I (ii) and CRZ-III. Based on the above, the proposal was considered by the Expert Appraisal Committee and recommended for grant of CRZ clearance with certain conditions and accordingly, the CRZ clearance was granted on 18.07.2011.  On hearing the process of getting clearance for establishing a private harbour at Rajakkamangalam, the Pannaiyoor villagers were very much shocked as any damage caused to the natural sand dune may bring disastrous catastrophe to the entire village. The villagers tried their level best to stall the project through the Citizens Welfare Trust formed in the village as the very survival of them is at stake. But the poor villagers were made to run from pillar to post as they do not have either money or any other influence. When it was confirmed that order had been issued in favour of the private fishing harbour they had no other go except knocking the door of the highest authority.

On the representation from Pannaiyoor Region Citizens Welfare Trust and the Conservation of Natural Trust alleging the project is in sand dune areas, a site inspection was conducted by the Additional PCCF and Scientist ‘F’ Regional Office, Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Chennai on 17.01.2015. The site inspection revealed that the project area has sand dunes and hatcheries of sea turtles. But as per 2011, CRZ Notification, the sand dunes are classified as CRZ-I (B) where activities are prohibited except very few activities like laying of conveying system, projects relating to Department of Atomic Energy, etc.

On receipt of the inspection report, the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change understood that the recommendations of the State Government authorities lacked correctness with respect to the presence of sand dunes at the project site. The Union Government, exercising the power conferred on the Ministry under section 5 of the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986, cancelled the CRZ clearance and thus the valuable sand dune at Rajakkamangalam is saved. Really it was a jubilant day for the Pannaiyoor villagers as their survival is assured by the cancellation order issued by the Ministry.