26 March, 2016
Frustrated by the inaction by government agencies to check the continued encroachment and pollution of the Ennore Creek, fisherfolk from six villages dependent on the creek today held a public hearing headed by Madras High Court Justice (Retd) D. Hari Paranthaman to highlight the ecological, hydrological, health and livelihood ramifications of the creek’s degradation. The judge was assisted by eminent lung specialist Dr. Hisamuddin Papa of HUMA Hospitals and Prof. S. Janakarajan, formerly of Madras Institute of Development Studies. The meeting, which was held at Ennore Vyaparigal Sanga Chatthiram, was organised by the Ennore Anaithu Minava Gramangal Koottamaippu with technical and legal assistance from Coastal Resource Centre, a project of The Other Media.
Fisherfolk have pointed to the indiscriminate pollution and land reclamation activities by industrialists as the cause behind their ill-health, falling fishery incomes and consequent impoverishment. The Manali Industries Association, Kamaraj Port Ltd and the thermal power plants in the region — namely, Ennore Thermal, North Chennai and NTECL — were singled out as the most significant contributors to the degradation of the creek.
Fisherfolk alleged that these companies have dangerously altered the hydrology of the region, and reduced the floodwater carrying capacity of the creek and backwaters. They blamed the flooding of areas in Ernavur and Athipattu squarely on the degradation of the Ennore wetlands.
Since the 1960s, an increasing number of industries have sprouted on the banks and within the 5-kilometre radius of the Ennore Creek including Ports, Thermal Power Plants, Ports, Ship Building Yards, Fertilizer Companies and Petrochemical Factories. All of these industries are situated on an ecologically and hydrologically sensitive aquatic ecosystem on Indias east coast. The Ennore creek plays a vital role in balancing the coastal ecosystem and serves as a channel that connects the Kosasthalaiyar River and the Pulicat Lake with the Bay of Bengal. Pulicat Lake – or Pazhaverkardu Eri – is the second largest brackish water lake in the country.
In its submission to the panel, Coastal Resource Centre said it has taken river water samples and air samples from the vicinity of the power plants to test for coal ash pollution, and promised to submit the results of analysis to the panel within a fortnight. The sample results will report the levels of toxic heavy metals and respirable dust in air, and levels of toxic selenium in water.
Fisherfolk urged the panel to recommend a moratorium on expansion of industries in the region, as the area is already overburdened with pollution.
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