Nityanand Jayaraman Jayaraman
I am a Chennai-based writer and social activist. I am also a part of the voluntary anti-corporate collective called the Vettiver Koottamaippu.
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The December 2015 floods in Chennai is still fresh in people’s minds. North Chennai, a historically-neglected part of the city, was among the worst-hit regions. Besides being densely populated, this region also houses critical infrastructure such as all power plants and CPCL’s petroleum refinery. Last year’s flooding submerged parts of the refinery disrupting production of petrol, diesel, kerosene and aviation fuel for more than two days. This affected life and business in the entire southern region that is served by the refinery. Businesses and Chennai residents don’t realise it, but North Chennai’s well-being is critical to Chennai’s survival.
The badly flooded areas between Basin Bridge to Mugathwarakuppam on the east of the Buckingham Canal, and Manali, Chinna Sekkadu, Burma Nagar and Sadayankuppam on the west are drained by the Kosasthalaiyar River and Ennore Creek into the Bay of Bengal through Mugathwarakuppam village.
The river is to Chennai what an artery is to our heart. 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. If the river or creek have blockages, the city can suffer a massive heart attack.
Unfortunately, years of neglect and wanton destruction of the wetlands in this region has severely reduced the ability of the Ennore Creek and Buckingham Canal to carry floodwaters. Fly ash from the thermal power plants and encroachment by the Ports in this region have reduced the waterspread area and the depth of the river in several places. The bridges that criss-cross the creek also disrupt the water flow especially because the spaces between pillars is filled with debris that blocks the free flow of water.
Fly Ash Is Toxic And Is Public Health Hazard
These blocks were a major cause for floods in the region last year. It doesn’t have to be this way.
There are six simple steps that can be taken by the Government to let the Kosasthalaiyar flow freely and reduce the risk of flooding. Even better, these measures can be taken well before the onset of monsoons:
1. Remove fly ash from Creek and nearby wetlands, and stop discharging fly ash-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 fly ash. [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 the conversion of wetlands.
Let’s request Tamil Nadu Govt. To Take These Six Steps And #SaveEnnoreSaveChennai. Sign the petition and ask the Tamil Nadu CM to come up with a plan to save Chennai by saving the Ennore creek.
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