One of the unique features of Chennai is the marshland located at Pallikaranai. Save Pallikaranai Marshland Forum (SPMF) formed in 2003 has been fighting for the preservation of the wetland and against encroachments.
“The damage caused here during the Cyclone Vardha in 2016 has not been fixed till now. The nameboards have not been replaced, and the marshland needs four watchtowers at least. The construction of the wall is unfinished, and it does not have grill fence either. We have asked authorities to allow tours for school students here so that they understand the value of wetlands,” says Kumararaja, a member of SPMF.
The body is now worried about the proposed expansion of the Thoraipakkam-Pallavaram Radial Road. The government has sanctioned Rs 35 crore to convert the road into an eight-lane stretch, which means at least 10 acres of the marshland will be eaten into, and this exposes the wetland to a lot of vulnerabilities, such as flooding and depletion of groundwater.
Pallikaranai marshland is approximately 650 hectares, out of which 1,000 acres have already been declared as reserve land under the Tamilnadu Forest Act. Now, The SPMF members want the remaining land to be brought under the Act at the earliest.
Overdumping of garbage has also been a major issue here. Only a few acres were allowed to be used initially, but now the waste covering the area has gradually expanded with tonnes of garbage dumped here everyday.
“Apart from illegal encroachments and dumping of garbage, the Perungudi Sewage Treatment Plant that came up in 2005 and a few IT companies constructed on the wetland pose a huge threat,” he says.
SPMF, along with few other bodies and residents’ associations, has been raising its voice to declare the encroached marsh areas as reserve land in order to preserve our ecosystem.