The Madras High Court has directed the State Coastal Zone Management Authority (SCZMA) to conduct an extensive survey with the assistance of revenue officials, and with police protection, to find out the exact number of unauthorised bungalows, houses, resorts, hotels, restaurants, farm houses, guest houses and other structures that have been constructed along the Bay of Bengal on the East Coast Road (ECR), beginning from Uthandi to Mahabalipuram.
A Bench of Justices M. Sathyanarayanan and R. Hemalatha wanted to know the structures that had come up on areas classified as Coastal Regulatory Zone-I and II and those that had been constructed in no development zones. After granting a month’s time to complete the survey on the entire stretch, the Bench ordered that a detailed report on the illegal structures and the nature of violations should be filed in the court by April 2.
The Bench also directed the Greater Chennai Corporation to file a status report during the next hearing on further action taken against over 700 building owners, between Neelankarai and Uthandi, to whom lock and seal notices were issued a couple of years ago for having violated coastal zone regulations. The Bench noted that the owners included film stars, top businessmen and other VIPs.
The Bench further ordered that the Corporation should put in place an effective mechanism to prevent illegal construction of buildings on the coastal area that falls within the city limits and submit its plan before the court. It pointed out that the judgement delivered by the Supreme Court in the Maradu high rise buildings demolition case would squarely apply to the buildings constructed on ECR too.
After finding that most of the constructions on the sea side of ECR had been put up after obtaining building plan approval from local panchayats, whose power to grant such approval was questionable, the judges directed the Municipal Administration Secretary to place before the court the names of the elected members of the panchayat and officials who had granted the building plan approvals to those structures.
When it was brought to the notice of the Bench that some building owners had filed statutory revision and appeal petitions before the Housing and Urban Development Secretary to get their constructions regularised, the court directed the officer to file an affidavit listing out the number of pending petitions, the current status of those pleas, whether any interim protection had been granted and the tentative time within which the appeals would be decided.
The orders were passed on a batch of cases that were pending in the court since 2002 with regard to buildings constructed within 500 metres of the high tide lines on the ECR. After the court took serious view of the issue a couple of years ago, the officials inspected the stretch between Neelankarai and Uthandi and found that 50 buildings had been constructed within 200 metres from the high tide line, and 89 had been built between 200 and 500 metres of the high tide line.