Eat for a cause: Efforts on to save Pulicat ecosystem

Chennai Kalai Theru Vizha has joined hands with the fishing community to help save the eco-sensitive region by organising a sea food festival
A file photo of the ecologically-sensitive Pulicat lagoon; (right) the thali that awaits guests at the food festival | special arrangement
A file photo of the ecologically-sensitive Pulicat lagoon; (right) the thali that awaits guests at the food festival | special arrangement

CHENNAI: Thousands of fisherfolk from 65 coastal villages have joined hands to form a coordination committee to save the Ennore-Pulicat ecosystem from rapid industrialisation. These villages are home to about 30,000 families from both Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh. As a first step, the newly elected gram panchayat councilors in Pulicat will meet on January 26 to chalk out a strategy and kick-start a movement.

Adding a new dimension to the fight is Chennai Kalai Theru Vizha, chipping-in with a unique concept to help the city realise the importance of Pulicat wetlands. A three-day seafood festival is being organised, starting January 31, in collaboration with Sea Salt restaurant in Nungambakkam. The restaurant’s chefs will dish out traditional Pulicat local cuisines. On Thursday, the fisherwomen cooked and shared recipes of an array of dishes with the chefs, which will form a part of a showpiece thali during the festival.

Environmentalist Nityanand Jayaraman told Express that Pulicat is under a serious threat with the proposed Adani Port and Kamarajar Port’s Coastal Employment Unit, both of which would inflict irreversible damage to an already fragile ecosystem.

“So far, protection of these wetlands were left to the fate of fishermen. Through this festival, we want everyone to taste the local cuisine and commit themselves to protect their traditional fishing grounds,” Jayaraman said.

Uma, a fisherwoman from Goonangkuppam, said, “For generations, we have depended on the brackish waters for livelihood. We don’t know anything but fishing. Now, people say the proposed port would erode the sand barrier island and the sea would join the lake. This cannot happen.”

Several representations were made to the Union Environment Ministry about the proposed port, and as a result, a sub-committee was formed to inspect the site.

In its report, it was noted that Pulicat system, Ennore creek and Buckingham canal are designated as ecologically sensitive areas and placed under CRZ-1 (critical for maintaining ecosystem of coast) of the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) notification, 2011.

“Extensive shallows (Ennore shoals) are formed at this place and they extend up to Pulicat. The coastal area nearby is very flat and has vast expanse of backwater. It has been hypothesized that shoals might have formed due to the interaction of northerly coastal currents and sediment supply through the Ennore creek when it was active,” the committee said.

It has also recommended a detailed study on the impact of the port expansion on the shoals.

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The New Indian Express