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(ARCHIVE) Vol. XVIII No. 26, may 1-15, 2009
Going slow
on saving Pallikaranai Marsh
(By A Staff Reporter)

Despite several promises made to the contrary, efforts by the Government to save the Pallikaranai marsh are making extremely tardy progress. Even the demarcation of what the Government announced in 2007 would be a reserve forest is yet to take place. Environmentalists are concerned at this delay and wonder if the process of conservation and ecological restoration will ever take place.

Can the Pallikaranai Marsh be saved?

If the Government has decided to declare the area as a reserve forest, it needs to hand over the area to the State Forest Department. This needs demarcation of the boundaries of the reserve area by the Revenue Department. But this is yet to take place and the marsh continues to be administered by the Chennai Corporation which has been using it as a rubbish dump and landfill. The northern part of the marsh, where most of the dumping is taking place, has become extremely polluted and needs immediate attention. Summer being the best season for demarcation, as the water levels in the marsh will be low, environmentalists are hoping that action will be forthcoming in the next couple of months. But with the electoral process in full swing, keeping most government officials away on poll duty, it is unlikely that matters will progress much.

The Government in the meanwhile has also been forced to comply with the findings of the special committee appointed by the Madras High Court to go into the issue of dumping and burning of waste in the marsh. The committee had demanded the immediate stoppage of burning of garbage in the neighbouring Perungudi dumpyard. The Corporation has stopped the practice, but the dumping of waste continues regardless.

During the monsoon season, there are further problems facing the marsh. The area serves as a natural drainage for the city and from here to the Buckingham Canal and then to the sea. However, massive reclamation of marshland for real estate development has caused the original extent of the marsh to shrink. The Buckingham Canal has long silted up. The construction of the East Coast Road has blocked off any possibility of the rainwater drainage from the marsh making its way to sea, which is why heavy flooding takes place in the neighbouring areas each monsoon. No long-term solution has been thought of for this problem and development of the area by way of real estate and industrialisation is continuing at will. Conservationists are of the view that the marsh is now only one-tenth of its original extent and the pressure exerted by collected water during monsoons on a shrunk area increases manifold. This can cause breaches and further flooding in several areas.

None of these issues is being addressed at present. Beyond the empty assurance that the area would become a protected forest there has been no action on the ground. Is it all over for the Pallikaranai marsh?


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