A beautification project initiated by the Chennai Corporation on Marina beach, between Lighthouse and Foreshore Estate, has raised the hackles of local fishermen and eco-activists, who claim the works are in violation of Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) rules.

According to fishermen living in hamlets near the area, the works began about a week ago. A visit to the spot by The Hindu revealed operations were under way with heavy machinery in use. Activists said a significant amount of sand along the stretch of over a kilometer had been dug out and what seemed to be levelling works were under way.

“Even if they are to build groynes to stop sea erosion, they would have to seek necessary permission. The stretch where the works are taking place is between the high tide and low tide lines, where laws prohibit any development works except those expressly exempted,” said Nityanand Jayaraman of the Save Chennai Beaches campaign.

K. Saravanan, a fisherman activist, said the works began without any notice to those in the hamlets. Recalling an order passed by the National Green Tribunal last year, he said the court prohibited even temporary dumping of debris on the sands.

“When we asked the officials, they said they were expanding the roads and laying concrete. This will affect the fishermen as we are losing space for our traditional activity,” he said.

However, officials of the Corporation denied allegations that the beach was being dug up.

“There will be no widening on the seaward side of the road. Hence, there is no violation in the coastal regulation zone. The existing platform on the seaward side has been removed and the random rubble masonry, which is boulders placed to prevent sea erosion, has also been removed,” said an official.

The works are being carried out to beautify the southern part of the beach, with a cycle track, pedestrian walkways, benches and a wider road in the pipeline. The project on the 2.5-km stretch, at a cost of Rs. 40 crore, is expected to take six months for completion.