Let’s Reclaim our Beaches: Doesn’t Chennai deserve its only public space?
Mention Chennai (formerly known as Madras) – the state capital of Tamil Nadu, India and the image of the long Marina beach along the Bay of Bengal conjures up immediately in one’s mind. In a city where much urban development has taken place in a hurried, haphazard way, the beach offers a welcome respite to its chaos, noise and dust. Thousands if not hundreds of thousands of people throng the beaches, especially during the weekends. The beaches however are far from clean. They bear the heavy footprint of human visitations - numerous plastic remnants, soles of shoes, countless clutter from wares sold on the beach and debris washed up from the seas.
Rahul Muralidharan talks about why Chennai beaches need help more than ever, and an urgent campaign which needs public support.
Reclaim Our Beaches, or ROB is a community of volunteers which set out a few month ago, to do just what the name implies – reclaim our democracy through reclaiming our public spaces, starting with the beach. The community believes that the beach is unfortunately one of the few places where people from all sections of society can gather to have some fun and enjoy rare commodities as as clean air, without having to pay for it.
A new elevated express highway is now being planned for 7.5 km is being proposed along the beach. Specific details are as below:
* The highway is planned between the lighthouse and Kottivakkam, joining the East Coast Road and joining ECR and designed in 2 phases..
* In the first phase – a 6 lane highway running from the lighthouse to Besant Nagar will pass through Santhome, the estuary, the backside of the Theosophical Society backside joining 5th Avenue.
* In the second phase – a 4 lane highway running from Elliots at Besant Nagar to Kottivakkam and passing behind Kalakshetra, Thiruvanmiyur and Valmiki Nagar and Thiruvalluvar beaches and joining ECR near Kottivakkam Kuppam
The beaches of Chennai are in bad shape as it is, because of the high level of plastic and waste remnants. The social and environmental impacts of the highway will be quite devastating:
* The serenity of the only open public space in Chennai will be gone forever. Imagine the noise, grime, dust, fine particulate emissions from 60,000 private vehicles expected to ply on the highway every day.
* As Sharada Shankar, an activist with ROB mentions in the newsreport below (only the first 4 minutes relate to the story), the highway is only likely to serve a small section of the population. Only 2% of Chennai’s population owns private vehicles. No public transport is going to be allowed on this expressway. So it is not going to benefit 98% of the population. This interview was given on the day the campaign was releasing a petition to the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu.
* 14 fishing hamlets along the coast will be evicted, and tens to thousands of homes will be destroyed. Going by past track records, proper resettlement may not happen. Even if resettlement is done, traditional livelihoods of fisherfolk who have depended on the coast line will be affected.
* The ecosystem – the flora and fauna of the Adyar estuary will be disturbed, with the destruction of the mangroves. Bird counts are expected to drop. The endangered Olive Ridley turtle breeding grounds are likely to completely disturbed.
* Some religious shrines will be demolished. World renowned cultural centres such as the Kalakshetra (a centre for learning of Indian Fine Arts) and the Theosophical Society, will lose their calm and serene ambience.
If you are in Chennai on July 31st 2010, kindly join the Human Chain which will be formed to peacefully protest against the proposed highway. The chain is planned at 4 pm(Saturday) on Elliots Beach. Spread the word around and inform friends and family in Chennai who may be able to participate in this. For further information, please write to firstname.lastname@example.org
Further links you may be interested in :
Facebook group: Reclaim Our Beaches
Let’s Reclaim Our Beaches : Olive Ridley Turtles, a being out of the blue” :
“Olive Ridley turtles have now been listed as an endangered species. Since the 1960s, the overall turtle population has gone down by 50%. Some possible threats include the destruction of beaches which are used for arribadas, directed harvest of turtles, and bycatching, which can happen when turtles are accidentally caught in nets.
One such problem occurs on the coast of Tamil Nadu in Southeastern India. Currently, the government is creating several projects to beautify the coastline. First, they are trying to build docks extending far into the ocean, which will eventually cause erosion of the beaches around it to increase, destroying the nesting sites of these turtles. To add to that, they are thinking of putting streetlights near the beach, unaware of the devastating effect it will have on the turtle population. When baby turtles hatch and dig themselves out of the sand, they get back to the ocean by following light sources such as the stars, the sun, and the moon. However, if they hatch at night, they may mistake the streetlights for these light sources and waddle onto the road, where they may get run over by cars or eaten by dogs. Also, several fishermen illegally use gill netting, in which turtles are caught as bycatch.”
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