Activists fear power plant extension could damage flora and fauna
On information from people who claimed to have spotted a tiger in Ennore around two months ago, officials from the Forest Department with volunteers have unearthed a ecosystem that supports wildlife in the area, which, they say, is at a risk from the ongoing third phase of construction of the North Chennai Thermal Power Station (NCTPS).
“While we initially fitted three cameras in the area based on complaints of a tiger being spotted, over 50 camera traps were fitted later and the footage was monitored for over two weeks. Volunteers and officials too patrolled the area. We found jungle cats, civet cats, spotted deer, monitor lizards, freshwater turtles and many other species of snakes and birds,” said Forest Ranger C. Murugesan.
The large number of animals, birds and reptiles were found over an area of nearly 750 acres in the 900-odd acres, where the NCTPS is located in Ennore.
The rich fauna in the area was caught on camera traps set up over two weeks as well as spotted by numerous volunteers, who patrolled the area.
Rejecting the possibility of a tiger in the area, Mr. Murugesan said people might have spotted a jungle cat and mistaken it for a tiger cub.
“Based on what the officials and the volunteers have seen and recorded about the wildlife there, we will have discussions with higher officials in the department and decide on future course of action,” he said.
Shravan Krishnan, an animal rights activist and volunteer with the Forest Department, said they had seen a colony of nearly 500 flying foxes, around 80 different species of birds and snakes as well as a large number of banyan trees.
“As a part of the extension project, we noticed that a few trees will be cut down. When this happens, the animals are bound to move towards residential areas, as this area is like an island of sorts and the animals have nowhere else to go,” he said. This could have been the reason why jungle cats were spotted by the people, he added.
Mr. Krishnan further said cutting down of trees could cause serious environmental harm as they were necessary to mitigate the pollution caused by Phase I and II of the thermal power plant, which were already functioning.
Environmental activists are hoping that the area will be declared an eco-sensitive zone, which will stop the expansion of the North Chennai Thermal Power Station.
“If expansion does happen, it will pose a huge threat to the animals and birds there. There is no reserve forest nearby as well and they will bear the brunt of the development,” an official from the Forest Department said.