Monthly Archives: April 2014

From Eugene to Cheyyur – All over the world the fights are the same


Visiting Cheyyur in Tamil Nadu, INDIA

Dr. Heidi W. Weiskel, Staff Scientist

Environmental Law Alliance Worldwide

In my town of Eugene, in the state of Oregon, USA, community members are rallying to oppose the potential transport of coal on trains that run through the city multiple times a day, out of fear of dangerous air pollution from coal dust. Coal dust can exacerbate breathing difficulties like asthma, cause tissue changes in the lungs, and in acute cases, contribute to emphysema, fibrosis, or cancer. The coal from the Pacific Northwest will be transported to our coast, and shipped out for consumption “overseas.”

Overseas. Thirteen thousand and one hundred kilometers away, the community members surrounding the potential site for the Cheyyur ultra mega coal-fired power project along the coast of Tamil Nadu, India, are also bracing themselves against the arrival of coal dust. And not only coal dust. Coal emissions, a jetty and shipping port, a coal yard, railroad, truck road, and coal ash pond. In short, a tremendous amount of air, water, soil, thermal, noise and light pollution. 

In exchange for this sacrifice, they will lose access to the open beaches they have been using for generations to launch their boats and mend and dry their nets. Gone will be the thick forest, harboring many species of birds, mammals, and plants. Gone will be the tranquility, the clean air, agricultural activity, the savannah, and the productive and biologically diverse Cheyyur Lagoon.

Last month, I had the honor to travel to the beach community that would be most affected by this short-sighted, profoundly unjust project. I was given an expert tour of the project site by Shweta Narayan, one of our ELAW partners from the organization Community Environmental Monitoring, and Saravanan Kasi, a leader from the nearby fishing village of Urur Kuppam and a petitioner on the case against the Cheyyur plant. Part of the tour included a meeting with the other petitioner on the case, Mr. Marimuthhu. I was moved by his determination and by the justness of his position, and I felt panic for the communities here as I imagined the first ship offloading, coal dust flying, and people starting to fall sick as the plant began operation.

My site visit revealed that the footprint for this project is enormous, covering substantially more acres than the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) indicated. I learned that the route and location for the pipeline and holding pond that will contain the wet, toxic coal ash waste have not yet been determined, meaning the EIA was incomplete and inaccurate. I also realized how close to the ocean the storage pile for the coal coming off the ships would be. The coastline of Tamil Nadu endured a massive tsunami a decade ago this year. If the coal pile and coal-fired power plant had been in place, the destruction in the area would have been far greater, and far more toxic. Finally, I saw how the Cheyyur Lake was a living body of water—flooding and retreating 100s of meters—in response to the tides and the seasons. The air was filled with the sounds of birds, insects, waves, and voices.

Objectively, we now know coal is a dirty, dangerous, outdated source of energy. Yet the US hopes to export what Asia hopes to import, and the pressure to exploit this carbon resource remains profound. We know better. At some point, we will do better. I hope it is in time to protect the communities near Eugene and the Cheyyur plant.

Relocate Cheyyur power plant, say naturalists


CHENNAI, April 5, 2014

Members of the Madras Naturalists’ Society (MNS) and the Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) on Friday appealed to the government to relocate the proposed 4,000-MW power plant and a captive port to an alternative location from Cheyyur in Kancheepuram district.

Ravi Chellam, vice-president, BNHS, said the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests’ Expert Appraisal Committee claimed that “migratory birds are found to be negligible’’ in the lagoon area. However, a joint study by the MNS and BNHS revealed that the lagoon had a rich birdlife.

Read more:

Power Plant Poses Big Threat to Birds in Cheyyur: Study

Published: 05th April 2014 08:19 AM

Contrary to the claims of the Union Environment Ministry’s Expert Appraisal Committee, a joint survey by the Bombay Natural History Society and Madras Naturalists Society has found that the Odiyur Lagoon, adjoining the proposed Cheyyur power plant, is habitat for a vast number of resident and migratory waterbirds.

Read more:





Naturalists oppose new power plant at Cheyyur

Times of India. Page 5


Chennai: The Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) and the Madras Naturalists’ Society (MNS) have released a study that contests the claims of an environment ministry report that cleared the proposed 4,000MW power plant at Cheyyur off East Coast Road near Chennai.

While giving clearance to the project in September 2013, the ministry said the presence of migratory birds was negligible in the area and there were no reserved forests, mangroves or estuaries.

The latest study by independent experts said that the area has more than 36 migratory bird species, eight of them endangered. Besides, it is a feedingcum-breeding ground for fish and has an estuary, it said.

The report has raised concerns of acidic emissions and air pollution from the power plant, and advised the ministry to shift the location of the power plant to another area.

Ravi Chellam of the Bombay Natural History Society, part of the study team, said, “We are not against the power plant. But it should not be given environmental clearance based on incorrect data and claims” .

Relocate Cheyyur Power Plant; Declare Cheyyur Ecosensitive Area: BNHS Urges Central Govt

4 April, 2014 — The 4000 MW Cheyyur coal power project has high potential to irreversibly damage the Odiyur Lagoon, destabilise fisheries and increase the vulnerability of the area to flooding events, according to a scientific study titled “Evaluation of the Waterbirds of Odiyur Lagoon – a Wetland near the proposed Cheyyur Power Plant” by the Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) and the Madras Naturalists’ Society (MNS). Releasing the report at a Press Conference today, Dr. Ravi Chellam, Vice President and Member of the Governing Council of the Bombay Natural History Society, said the study makes a strong case for relocating the power plant and captive port to an alternative location that is in compliance with the siting guidelines issued by the Union Ministry of Environment & Forests. He urged the State and Central Governments to notify the Lagoon and its catchment as an Ecologically Sensitive Area under the Environment Protection Act and regulate activities to ensure the protection of local biodiversity, local livelihoods and the region’s hydrological functions. Continue reading