‘Efforts on to get Blue Flag certification for Chennai beaches’

Supriya Sahu, Secretary of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, in an exclusive interview to DT Next explained the ongoing initiatives taken up by the department in making Tamil Nadu a leader in combating climate change and making the state environment friendly.
‘Efforts on to get Blue Flag certification for Chennai beaches’
Representative image

CHENNAI: Ever since the Department of Environment and Forest was changed into the Department of Environment, Forest and Climate Change by the ruling DMK government, the Department had assumed greater importance.

In the last one year, it had brought out several new initiatives for protection of the environment among which the ‘Meendum Manjapai’ campaign is a huge success.

Supriya Sahu, Secretary of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, in an exclusive interview to DT Next explained the ongoing initiatives taken up by the department in making Tamil Nadu a leader in combating climate change and making the state environment friendly.

Supriya Sahu
Supriya Sahu

Tamil Nadu has only one Blue Flag certified beach, Kovalam. Are there plans to make more Blue Flag certified beaches in the state?

Our state government is in the process of making Marina Beach a Blue Flag certified beach. We are working closely with the National Centre for Sustainable Coastal Management (NCSCM) to obtain the Blue Flag certification. NCSCM will identify the challenges, causes of pollution and the areas to work on with which we can improve and obtain the recognition. Paper works have already commenced and physical works are expected to start by the end of July. Marina Beach is a longest stretch and there will be challenges, but most part of the beach will be covered under the scheme. Apart from that, the state government will also develop Neelankarai Beach to make it a Blue Flag certified beach.

Blue Flag certification project is basically undertaken by the Tourism Department. What is the role of the Environment Department in improving the beaches?

Blue Flag beaches are part of the central government’s Beach Environment &Aesthetic Management Services (BEAMS) which aims at providing the best amenities in beaches. Nowadays, tourists want clean and well maintained beaches and our department is ensuring that no plastic or micro plastic wastes get accumulated in beaches. We will set up sewage treatment plants in beaches and will prevent pollution to make them clean beaches.

How is the response for the recently launched ‘Manjappai’ vending machine in Chennai?

There is very good response for the ‘Manjappai’ vending machines. So far, more than 1,600 bags have been sold and on an average around 100 bags are sold daily.

When the scheme has good response what are the plans of the government to take it forward?

In the first phase, we are in the process of identifying 20 to 25 women self help groups (SHGs) in Chennai, Madurai and Coimbatore to provide them ‘Manjappai’ vending machines for free. The vending machines will be installed in places where people crowd and the revenue obtained from the machines will completely go to the SHGs. Officials will be deployed to carry out periodical inspection of the quality of bags and working conditions of the machines.

There are concerns that the cost of ‘Manjapais’ are on the higher side. Does the state have any idea of reducing the cost of the bags so that more people can come forward to use them?

We can tune the machine and up to three types of denominations can be used in the machines. At present, each bag costs Rs 10 and we are also considering reducing the price. Once more machines are installed prices can be reduced.

It was mentioned in the speech of Environment Minister Siva V Meyyanathan in the Assembly that the state will develop climate resilient villages. What will be the essence of the project?

Basically, the scheme is to make villages non-vulnerable to the effects of climate change such as drought, famine, flooding and so on. Farmers will be provided alternative crops in case of drought and all safety measures such as construction of safety shelters will be undertaken in the villages. People owning cattle will be sensitised about the protection of cattle in case of floods and sources of cattle feed will be developed in the villages. The Health Department will be sensitised about the nature of diseases that can spread due to climate change and will keep them alert.

Are the villages identified under the scheme? When can we expect the project to take-off?

There are six agro-climatic zones in the state and a village from each climatic zone will be selected. Apart from that, four more villages will be selected. The selection process is underway and the works are expected to commence by the end of July.

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