CHENNAI: As many as 50,000 residents of Pasiyavaram island in Pulicat lake have been stranded for the past three days as the only road connecting them to the mainland is now submerged. Making matters worse, the water level in the Pulicat Lake is rising with the torrential downpour and floodwaters from Arani river gushing into the lake.
Located in Tiruvallur district, the island of five villages — Sathankuppam, Edamani, Edamani Colony, Rahmat Nagar and Pasiyavaram — falls under two panchayat limits. Most of the residents are fisherfolk, who face hardship every time the monsoon brings heavy rains. The island has two primary schools, a temple, and pucca roads, but no hospital.
According to a release, a whopping 11,000 cusecs of water is being released from Pichatur dam in Andhra Pradesh into the Arani river and the administration has issued a flood alert to several low-lying areas. A thin strip of temporary cement road, which connects the islanders to Pulicat town is now under 6 ft of water.
“Since yesterday (Wednesday) night there has been no electricity,” said Durai Mahendran, president, TN Fishermen Association and Sathankuppam resident. There have been incidents when a pregnant woman and children died after their boats capsized while they were attempting to cross the flooded lake, he said. “In 2015, four children got injured when their boat capsized. Fortunately, they were pulled out by fishermen,” he recalled.
Island residents’ much-needed bridge stalled for 3 years despite CRZ nod
Pasiyavaram residents have been demanding a bridge connecting Pulicat Main Road to the island providing a permanent and safe commute for the last 20 years. The State highways department had also proposed to construct a high-level bridge, but the project was stonewalled on multiple occasions due to environmental concerns.
Finally, in 2018, the Union Environment Ministry granted Coastal Zone Regulation (CRZ) clearance, but the project did not commence until last August. Durai Mahendran further urged the government to expedite the construction of the bridge. The bridge would be 432 m long and 8.5 m wide.
An Assistant Divisional Engineer of the State Highways Department told TNIE the construction was delayed due to the pandemic and labour problems.
“About 30 per cent of the work is completed. The foundation of the work has been completed and out of 19 pillars, 10 pillars have been laid. The rest of work can be completed in the next 7-8 months, if carried out uninterrupted. Now, the work has been temporarily suspended due to heavy water flow in the lake. Before next year’s monsoon, bridge connectivity will be provided to the islanders.”
On Thursday, Ponneri MLA Durai Chandrasekhar visited the island on a boat and heard the grievances of the people. He promised to take up the issue with the State government and ensure the construction of the bridge is expedited. The State accorded administrative sanction of Rs 15 crore under Tsunami Rehabilitation Programme in 2007-08 and later revised it to Rs 18.20 crore in 2015.