The rape of Pallikaranai

The rape of the Pallikaranai marsh has been much written about, but there is absolute apathy in terms of doing anything about it. Successive state governments have heard about its devastation, clucked sympathetically, and continued to destroy it. Why is it that we are so unmoved by the systematic destruction of our natural heritage? Take for example, this article that appeared in The Hindu recently:

The Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) has banned the dumping of waste and discharge of sewage or industrial effluents into the ecologically important Pallikaranai marshland. In an official release on June 9, 2006, the TNPCB, while underscoring the need to protect the Pallikaranai marsh for its rare species, groundwater recharging potential and ecological importance, warned that any violation of its directions would be penalised without prior notice under Section 15 (1) of the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986. The TNPCB directive also states that untreated sewage be discharged only into the sewage treatment plant operated by Metrowater at Perungudi.

The result? Corporation trucks continue to roar down the Old Mahabalipuram Road to dump their contents into the marsh everyday. This is not hear say, I see them every day as I live on the Old Mahabalipuram Road. The tonnes of garbage they dump is then burnt, letting out clouds of smoke and toxic fumes that envelop all the residential areas around, including Perungudi where I live. Here’s a picture taken this evening of the garbage burning and the plume of smoke drifting towards the coast:


Many NGOs, local bodies, citizens groups and the Ex Nora have all addressed this issue and continue to do so. One even had the air around the burning garbage analyzed to find that its level of toxic concentration is 30, 000 times more than the prescribed safe level! The government’s response? They are doing their own study which will take another six months!

Here’s what the head of the Ex Nora had to say:
Addressing a press conference here yesterday, Nirmal said encroachments on river banks as well as of water bodies resulted in the inundation of residential colonies during monsoon. ‘There is acute water shortage in Chennai city despite the presence of so many lakes. It is not want of water. It is want of water management. It is more protection and preservation of water bodies and waterways,’ he said.

Nirmal noted that the Velachery lake was shrinking alarmingly and said it once spanned an area of 260 acres and presently it was only 60 acres. The Pallikaranai marsh has been totally ruined thanks to Chennai Corporation and Alandur Municipality who dump 1,800 tones of garbage everday and set fire to it. Similarly, the Porur lake which provides water to West Chennai is polluted by sewage.

What is the Pallikaranai Marsh? According to a note on the conservation of India’s wetlands, it is one of the more important swamps that need to be saved:
Pallikaranai wetland is a fresh water swamp adjacent to the Bay of Bengal situated about 20 km. south of Chennai city with a geographical area of 80 sq. km (original size 600 sq. km.).The swamp is helpful in charging the aquifers of the region. It is one of the last few remaining natural ecosystems in the city of Chennai.

The topography of the swamp is such that it always retains some storage, thus forming an aquatic ecosystem. It has been a home for naturally occurring plants (61 species), fish (46 species), birds (106 species), butterflies (7 species), reptiles (21 species) and some exotic floating vegetation such as water hyacinth and water lettuce, which are less extensive now and highly localized.

Recent reports of the appearance of the white-spotted garden skink, for the first time in Tamilnadu, and Russell’s viper, the largest and the most widespread among Asian vipers, confirm its invaluable ecological status. Fish such as dwarf gourami and chromides that are widely bred and traded worldwide for aquaria, occur naturally in Pallikaranai. Besides, the windowpane oyster, mud crab, mullet, half beak and green chromide are some of the estuarine fauna present in the marsh.

Dumping of solid waste, discharge of sewage, construction of buildings, construction of a railway station and a new road to connect old Mahabhalipuram road and Pallavaram are causing the Pallikaranai marsh to shrink.
I wish The Hindu, instead of just reporting occasionally about this important natural assets decimation, will take on the role of ensuring action by the government, starting with editorials and regular coverage, including progress reports, interviews with local residents and so on.. Only then is anyone in authority likely to take this seriously.

1 Comment so far

  1. G V Balasubramanian (unregistered) on July 6th, 2006 @ 1:06 am

    David, I share your sentiments / views on Pallikaranai Marsh. I live at Velachery on Taramani Road. The garbage dumped in the marsh is burnt. During rainy season, the decomposing garbage spreads a stink all over the area.I am posting a photograph taken at Pallikaranai marsh with buffaloes and birds together.

Terms of use | Privacy Policy | Content: Creative Commons | Site and Design © 2009 | Metroblogging ® and Metblogs ® are registered trademarks of Bode Media, Inc.