Fishermen at the banks of Ennore Creek overlooking the power plant. Photo: Nachiket Deuskar

Fisherfolk and environmentalists fight to save Ennore Creek

Fishermen and environmentalists proposed six steps to mitigate the problems of Ennore Creek, in a press conference held on Tuesday. This was followed by a protest by the fishermen and environmental activists.

Magsaysay awardee TM Krishna, former State Women’s Commission Chair V. Vasanthi Devi, retired High Court judge Haripanthaman, Executive Director of NGO Arunodhaya Virgil D’Sami and transgender activist Sankari spoke at the conference.

They also launched a ‘Save Ennore Creek’ petition online, urging Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalitha to act on the issue before the monsoon this year.

Located in the Thiruvalluvar district of Tamil Nadu, Ennore creek is a backwater connected to the Kosathalaiyar River. Six fishing villages along the creek that rely on its once rich ecology are now under threat.

A ‘Save Ennore Creek’ campaign video

The Buckingham Canal played a vital part in mitigating flood water in the low lying areas of Northern Chennai. Construction over and around the creek and blockage in the canal has severely obstructed the flow of water.

Areas around the creek were badly hit during the floods in December 2015, and the situation hasn’t improved since.

Map of the Ennore Creek showing adjoining industries and fishing villages

Nityanand Jayaraman, an environmental activist, spoke about how North Chennai has been constantly neglected even though it is the most affected regions during the floods.

“Many industries, thermal power stations have resulted in debris, fly ash deposits and effluents. The pipelines from these thermal power stations are cracked in many places that are constantly leaking ash. The Buckingham canal is in many places just a barren land. Rivers are removed for infrastructure. If this continues, the north of Chennai might cease to exist”, he warned.

Ash Ponds of the thermal power plants along Ennore Creek; Left 2004, Right 2016.

Justice Hariparanthaman, who led a three member panel to look into the issue, found that public sector firms around the creek, namely the North Chennai Thermal Power Station (NCTPS), Ennore Thermal Power Station and Kamarajar Port Ltd, have causes systematic damage to its biodiversity.

The North Chennai Thermal Power Station (NCTPS); Left 2004, Right 2016.

He said, “This creek is getting destroyed gradually and its depth has been reduced from 15 feet to 1 foot.” He further added that the water gives the residents a lot of skin related problems due to hazardous chemicals discharged in the river.

Speaking for the women of Ennore, Vigil D’Sami said, “The women fisherfolk complain about the lack of trust among the buyers of the fish because of problems related to the area and water quality.” She said that the corporation’s elections must be used properly to project the issue.

Srinivasan RL, Head of Kattukuppam Fishing Cooperative Society said, “All these encroachments are like blockages in one’s blood vessel that can lead to a heart attack. If these blockages are not removed immediately, Chennai can suffer a major heart attack.”

Pipes carrying ash laden water leak into the Kosasthalayar River. Photo: Nityanand Jayaraman

Bringing class divisions into the light, Vasanthi Devi talked about how people in north Chennai are generally ignored as they mainly belong to the lower strata of society.

TM Krishna spoke about open lands or ‘poramboke’ surrounding the creek which soak up and replenish water. He stressed about reclaiming the word ‘poramboke’, which is now considered a bad word by urban planners.

“The negative connotation to the word has made the mainstream media and the general public to avoid the land and the people of the land,” he said.

Pooja Kumar, a member of Coastal Resource Centre said that the power plants must be removed with no further expansion and warned that the Ennore creek will flood even if it rains half as much as last year.

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