Chennai: Fisherfolk stage 'Jal Satyagraha' to save Ennore Creek
Standing waist-deep in waters of the Kosasthalai River fisherfolk staged a satyagraha to save the Ennore creek in Chennai on Wednesday. Hundreds of residents demanded the withdrawal of alleged fraudulent maps denying the existence of the Ennore Creek. The community has been fighting a lonely battle against the Tamil Nadu government accusing it of turning wetlands illegally into industrial real estate corridors.
"River, not land"
Protestors- young and old- stood hand-in-hand in the river shouting slogans of "This is river- not land". This is the fisherfolk community's first public attempt at hold the government responsible for attempting to illegally convert 6500 acres of the Ennore wetlands into an industrial real estate. The original Coastal Regulation Zone map, approved by the Government of India, in 1996 declares the entire Ennore Creek as a "No Development Zone."
Fraudulent map makes creek disappear
Protestors allege that fraudulent CRZ maps have been drawn to deny the existence of Ennore creek. Fishermen are fighting to save the waterbody from none other than the Tamil Nadu government. Residents allege that the government through a fraudulent map has made way for Kamarajar Port, L&T Port, NTECL Vallur, HPCL and BPCL and parts of TANGEDCO's power infrastructure in brazen violation of CRZ status.
Fisherfolk's life and livelihood at stake
"Fishing economy has been hit massively. Shrinking of water body means less space for fish. Shrinking has happened in terms of surface spread as well as depth thanks to the dumping of dredged sand from the sea, silting the waterbody. The larger concern is fly ash and heavy metals from the industries polluting the environment causing health hazards," said Nityanand Jayaraman, Environmental activist and researcher who was part of the protest.
Map v/s Map dilemma
In July 2017, the State Coastal Zone Management Authority claimed that the originally approved CRZ map for Ennore declaring the entire region as a "No Development Zone" was replaced by an "updated" map in which the entire Creek
is shown as a petrochem park. Protestors allege that the map effectively denies the existence of Ennore creek thus making way for an industrial real estate. Protestors even allege that information sought under RTI exposes this map to be fraudulent with no approval from the Central Government.
Chennai stares at another flooding
Protestors have warned that encroachments have already altered hydrology, leading to flooding in upstream areas. Parts of Athipattu and Nandiambakkam were flooded and waterlogged because of the encroachments in Ennore Creek in October last year and protestors warn that the situation will severely increase the risk of disastrous flooding for nearly 10 lakh people residing in Chennai and Thiruvallur districts. More than 1,100 acres of the Ennore Creek - consisting of saltpans and mangroves - have already been converted into industrial infrastructure by Kamarajar Port Ltd (KPL), TANGEDCO, NTECL Vallur, HPCL and BPCL. Now the government intends to divert an additional 1,000 acres of the Creek for constructing car parking terminals, warehouse zones and coal yards.