Tamil Nadu: Fresh hurdle for Pen Memorial as PIL is filed in Supreme Court against it

The petition alleged state government departments gave clearance certificates in haste while violating environmental laws.

BySouth First Desk

Published May 23, 2023 | 7:55 PMUpdatedMay 23, 2023 | 7:55 PM

The memorial would stand 30 metres tall, spanning 290 metres over land and 360 metres over the sea. (Supplied)

A PIL has been filed in the Supreme Court challenging the Tamil Nadu government’s decision to construct an offshore memorial to legendary DMK leader M Karunanidhi modelled after a pen in the Bay of Bengal.

The state government plans to construct a 134 feet tall Pen statue off the Marina beach near the Muthamil Kalaignar Karunanidhi memorial in Chennai.

Apart from being a politician, Karunanidhi was an accomplished writer and scripted scores of movies. He wrote almost daily for the DMK’s newspaper Murasoli.

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‘Could damage ecosystem’

The plea filed by Madurai resident KK Ramesh has sought the court’s direction to the Tamil Nadu government and the Ministry of Environment to withdraw the decision and approval granted to it as it could damage the ecosystem.

The petition alleged all departments of the state government gave clearance certificates for the proposed monument in haste in violation of environmental laws.

“Uncontrolled construction activities in these areas would have devastating effect on the natural water flow that may ultimately result in severe natural calamities.

“Expert opinions suggest that the devastating floods faced in recent years in Tamil Nadu are the immediate result of uncontrolled construction activities on sea shores and unscrupulous trespass into the natural path of backwaters,” the petition filed through advocate Narender Kumar Verma said.

The plea said the monument, estimated to be built at a cost of ₹80 crore, could further affect the coastline and will impact the fish population since Marina Beach is an area which has a high-accretion rate (accumulation of sand).

Related: DMK defends Pen Memorial for Karunanidhi off Marina beach

Seeks ban on construction

It has also sought directions to protect the coastal regions of all states from the rising sea-levels and a ban on any construction work there.

The DMK had earlier staunchly defended the proposal to build the “Pen Memorial”, saying it was a most befitting move to honour the literary genius who was also a political colossus.

Earlier, the AIADMK had challenged in the Supreme Court the construction of the memorial.

In his petition filed before the apex court, former AIADMK minister D Jayakumar argued the monument being constructed would affect the livelihood of traditional fishermen and harm Marina’s ecosystem.

Referring to NCCR (National Centre for Coastal Research) data, the petitioner contended that 33 percent of India’s coastline witnessed sea erosion. between 1990 and 2016. The erosion has been grave on the east coast along the Bay of Bengal, Jayakumar said.

The petition also claimed that Tamil Nadu ranked fourth in the country, with 42.7 percent of its coastline under the threat of erosion.

Related: Centre gives nod, with conditions, to ex-chief minister Pen Memorial

NOC awaited from INS Adyar

The ruling DMK government has been pushing for the monument, that is meant to honour the rich Tamil literary tradition. Karunanidhi has penned dialogues and screenplays for more than 50 movies, besides writing historical sagas, biographies, poems and novels.

In the last week of April, the Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC) of the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest, and Climate Change gave the green signal for the Pen Monument off the Marina.

However, the EAC asked the state to get a No Objection Certificate (NOC) from the naval base INS Adyar before taking up construction work.

Monitoring committee to oversee project

It also directed the government to set up an expert monitoring committee during the implementation of the project and added its clearance would be subject to the outcome of several PILs filed against the monument.

Public Works Department sources said the state has submitted a project report to INS Adyar. The Eastern Naval Command has not issued the NOC as yet, they said.

The monument’s planned site would cover 8551.13 sq m and it would, reportedly, fall under areas demarcated as Coastal Regulatory Zones (CRZs) I-A, II, and IV-A.

According to norms, the construction of memorials or monuments in CRZ-IV should be discouraged but allowed only in “exceptional cases” with adequate environmental safeguards.

(With PTI inputs)