Six Simple Steps to Help Chennai Get Ready for Rains

Ennore fisherfolk and prominent Chennai residents have invited the Government to do six simple things that they say will vastly reduce flood risks in the densely populated North Chennai region. Magsaysay awardee T.M. Krishna, former State Women’s Commission chair V. Vasanthi Devi and retired High Court judge Hariparanthaman launched a “Save Ennore Creek” petition online urging the Chief Minister to act before the rains.

Virgil D’Sami of Arunodhaya, an organisation that coordinated flood relief works in North Chennai last year, said “People in North Chennai are very anxious about the imminent rainy season. They have not yet recovered from last year’s floods. They are eager that government take measures to protect them this year.”

Last year, Ennore fishing villages deployed 120 boats to rescue more than 30,000 stranded people from the low-income residential areas in the north. The fisherfolk pointed out that the floods were caused by the degradation due to pollution and industrial encroachments of Poromboke wetlands associated with the Kosasthalaiyar and Ennore Creek. “Far from being wastelands, kazhuveli poromboke, kalvai poromboke and uppankazhi poromboke areas in Ennore hold the key to safeguarding Chennai,” the fisherfolk said.

“In our culture today, Poromboke has become a dirty word. We have to reclaim the word and restore its value as a way of ensuring that wetlands are no longer diverted for residential, commercial or industrial infrastructure,” said musician and social commentator T.M. Krishna.

The southern arm of the Ennore Creek drains the Kosasthalaiyar, and the rainwaters from Manali, Sadayankuppam, Chinna Sekkadu, Burma Nagar on one side, and the working class residential areas of Tondiarpet, Korukkupet, Satyamoorthy Nagar, Washermanpet and Ernavur on the other. Besides serving as home to more than 1 million people, North Chennai also houses critical infrastructure such as the CPCL petroleum refinery, the railway link connecting Chennai to the north and east, and all of the city’s electricity generating stations. Last year’s floods drowned the CPCL refinery and disrupted production for two days.

As long as the river, creek and Buckingham Canal are healthy and freely flowing, North Chennai, its people and the critical infrastructure located in the region are safe. But ill-designed roads and bridges, sludge from domestic and industrial effluents, pollutants such as flyash from thermal power plants and encroachments into the Ennore wetlands for industrial infrastructure have drastically reduced the flood-carrying capacity of the creek. Eleven bridges that criss-cross the creek also disrupt the water flow because the spaces between pillars are filled with debris.

“All these encroachments are like blockages in one’s blood vessel that can lead to a heart attack.If these blockages in Ennore Creek are not removed immediately, Chennai can suffer a major heart attack,” said R.L. Srinivasan, president of the Kaattukuppam Fishermen’s Cooperative Society.

“Safeguarding North Chennai by improving drainage in the Creek is not very difficult. I hope the government will swing into action on a war footing, especially since much of the impacted area falls within the Chief Minister’s constituency. There is no time to lose, as the monsoon would set in any time,” said former Tirunelveli University vice-chancellor Vasanthi Devi, who contested the Assembly Elections from the R.K. Nagar constituency.

“There is more to the city than the IT corridor and the airport,” reminded Justice (Retd) Hariparanthaman. “The encroachments in Ennore Creek are violations of the law. Removing them is not just required from a flood-safety perspective but also from a legal point of view.”

For more information, contact:

R.L. Srinivasan, Ennore Anaithu Meenavar Sangam — 9884280891

Nityanand Jayaraman. Chennai Solidarity Group — 9444082401

Six simple actions that will reduce flood risk in North Chennai:

  1. Remove flyash from creek and nearby wetlands, and stop discharging flyash-laden water into the creek from the ash dykes of NCTPS and NTECL Vallur. [Responsible Parties: TANGEDCO and NTECL]
  2. Declog Buckingham Canal by removing dumped earth and flyash. [Responsible Parties: Kamarajar Port, TANGEDCO]
  3. Desilt Buckingham Canal and Feeder Canals like Captain Cotton Canal, Otteri Nullah, Kodungaiyur Drain. [Responsible Parties: Manali Industries Association; PWD, Corporation of Chennai]
  4. Dredge and deepen spaces between bridges and conveyor belts to their original depths. [Responsible Parties: Various contractors, Highways Department, PWD, NCTPS, NTECL, KPL
  5. Remove construction debris dumped in Kosasthalaiyar and Buckingham Canal to build ETPS’ conveyor belt. [Responsible Parties: TANGEDCO
  6. Stop all further construction on saltpans, mangroves and other wetlands in the Ennore region in line with the Madras High Court’s directions prohibiting conversion of wetlands.

 

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