Beach development activities on Injambakkam-Akkarai stretch will affect turtle nesting, say conservationists

CMDA officials deny it will impact turtles nesting, as the project is in Injambakkam, where there is no recorded nesting of turtles

Updated - May 14, 2024 12:10 pm IST

Published - May 14, 2024 01:27 am IST - Chennai


File | Photo Credit: B. Velankanni Raj

The proposed beach development project in the Injambakkam-Akkarai stretch by the Chennai Metropolitan Development Authority (CMDA) will endanger Olive Ridley sea turtles, which come up to the shore to nest in large numbers between December and May every year, say conservationists. However, CMDA officials deny that there is nesting activity in the Injambakkam stretch, and therefore the project will not affect the turtles. 

The threats to the sea turtles come in at least three forms — light pollution, encroachment of turtle nesting grounds, and a potential increase in littering — due to the project, which includes construction of facilities such as prefab building, cycle track, food court, landscape, open air theatre, open parking, pedestrian walkway, and play area in a 2.3 kilometre stretch between Injambakkam and Akkarai at a cost of ₹40.03 crore. 

The Tamil Nadu Coastal Zone Management Authority (TNSCZMA) has recommended the project with the condition to explore blue flag certification, for which the new facilities have been planned. 

In the 124th meeting of the TNSCZMA held on March 4, 2024, the District Coastal Zone Management Authority (DCZMA) noted that the proposed site location in the Injambakkam-Akkarai stretch is very close (only 50 m) to the turtle nesting site and as the nesting location tends to vary, it will significantly affect the nesting area.

It was further noted that lighting that will be provided in the site will affect the turtles. “Excessive commercialisation and footfall [will] increase the chances of turtle egg damage because the marine turtles lay eggs on open sandy beaches 40 to 60 m away from the shoreline,” observed the DCZMA.

CMDA Member Secretary Anshul Mishra said the observations of the DCZMA on the proximity of the project site to the testing nestle grounds (50 m) were incorrect. He said while Neelankarai was also initially included for the project, it was dropped because the beach is a nesting spot. “Injambakkam is not a turtle nesting ground. Our records show that it [the project] is 750 metres from the nesting site,” he said. He further said that the Forest Department has to define the turtle nesting sites. The technical expert committee asked the CMDA to get an NOC from the Chief Wildlife Warden, Chennai, in the context of turtle activity, in particular. The CMDA has already written to the Warden requesting the NOC.

Threat to nesting area

The ‘blue flag’ is a eco-label accorded based on 33 criteria, indicating that a beach has hygienic facilities and sustainable infrastructure development. However, development should also mean protection of the environment, said Shravan Krishnan, a long-time volunteer with Student’s Sea Turtle Conservation Network (SSTCN), and a wildlife conservationist. 

“Nesting beaches are already reducing. Turtles that used to nest further south [beyond Neelankarai] have slowly come to the northern parts as the beaches here are relatively quiet. Development cannot happen when no action is taken on encroachment of properties and beach houses,” Mr. Krishnan said, adding that people should be encouraged to enjoy a beach in its natural form. 

To tackle light pollution, Mr. Mishra said the CMDA will follow the “Kerala model” of turning off lights after 7 p.m. and ensure that there is no disturbance to the turtles. As for littering, he said the beaches will be cleaned round-the-clock. “There will be 24X7 cleaning and maintenance operations,” he said. 

Notably, organisations such as the SSTCN and TREE Foundation that have been working on sea turtle conservation for over two decades were not included in discussions on the development project. While the former said it was not approached at all, the latter was purportedly not given full information on the proposed facilities.

I.H. Sekar, a fisherman from Injambakkam, said the stretch is a prime nesting area for sea turtles. Normally 25-35 turtle nests are found on that stretch, he said, adding that a cycle track can be laid on the road and not on a pristine beach. Raising concerns about change in the dynamics of the beach due to the construction, he said it will cause sea erosion.

(With inputs from R. Aishwaryaa) 

0 / 0
Sign in to unlock member-only benefits!
  • Access 10 free stories every month
  • Save stories to read later
  • Access to comment on every story
  • Sign-up/manage your newsletter subscriptions with a single click
  • Get notified by email for early access to discounts & offers on our products
Sign in


Comments have to be in English, and in full sentences. They cannot be abusive or personal. Please abide by our community guidelines for posting your comments.

We have migrated to a new commenting platform. If you are already a registered user of The Hindu and logged in, you may continue to engage with our articles. If you do not have an account please register and login to post comments. Users can access their older comments by logging into their accounts on Vuukle.