State: Tamil Nadu
Site: Pallikarani Marsh (Estuarine Wetland)
What is your personal relation to the natural coastal or marine site you represent?
Living at a stone throw distance away from the site I represent, I have grown up seeing the Pallikaranai marsh shrink and succumb under pressures of urbanization and massive garbage dumping. Passing by it each day, one could easily forget the marsh’s beauty struggling to breathe in the dense cloud of smoke arising from the burning garbage. Often I wondered, if living around the dumpyard is so difficult for us, how it would be for the flora and fauna which call the Pallikaranai Marsh their “home”! Taking up conservation of Pallikaranai marsh as my project, I have organised awareness programs bringing in eminent environmentalists and social leaders to express their views on waste management and Pallikaranai Marsh conservation in conjunction with World Wetlands Day (Febraury 2nd). A report of the event was submitted to The Secretariat, Ramsar Convention seeking to bring better recognition to Pallikaranai marsh. I have also created an online information portal on the marsh seeking to further expand the knowledge on this ecosystem among the common man. Summing up the elaboration, I wish to be the voice of an ecosystem which has been for long misused and denied utterance of its wish to live and flourish.
What are the specific problems and threats of your natural coastal or marine site?
Uncontrolled urbanization and a redundant land classification system that classifies low biomass ecosystems as wastelands.Garbage (approx 3500 tonnes/day) dumping and burning – slow conversion of ecosystem to a landfill.Highly polluted air, water & soil. IGNORANCE, NEGLIGENCE – most important cause of all!
Why do you think is it important to safeguard your natural coastal or marine site?
How would we like to live in a house where the air-conditioner spits fumes of toxic garbage burning? Or sip a cup of water to find it is polluted with sewerage? If we cannot tolerate this, then how can the 337 odd species of plants, birds, fishes and other residents of this aquatic ecosystem live in such conditions? This is what is exactly happening to the Pallikaranai Marsh. The estuarine land serving as a vital link between the land and sea recharges the city’s groundwater table every monsoon, prevents flooding, provides livelihood to several fisher-folk and serves as an important breeding site for many migratory birds.At the field level, conservation (spelt “degradation”) of the Pallikaranai marsh is aided only by garbage dumping and ruthless urbanization. Declarations have been made, funds have been allocated, land has been set aside, conservation plans have been drafted and newspapers have shouted themselves hoarse, but, this is all that has happened for several years past. What is needed is real action. Conserving the Pallikaranai marsh is indeed very important to the ecological and hydro-biological health of Chennai city. Eco-tourism through development of a wildlife sanctuary would definitely earn the Government much more than dumping and burning of garbage does!