The Pallikaranai wet swamp is the only remaining wetland ecosystem of the expanding metropolis of Chennai, located in the southern part of the city and yet it also happens to be the most neglected in terms of environmental conservation. It has also been categorized as one of the three most important natural freshwater ecosystems of south India, the other three being, Point Calimere and Kazhuveli.
It has a geographical area of 80 square kilometres and contains several rare and endangered species of plant, bird and animal life. It is also a significant breeding ground of thousands of migratory birds from in and around the country. But according to recent reports, the marshlands have undergone intense degradation due to the garbage dump yard set up by the Corporation of Chennai not far from the wetlands. Huge mounds of garbage have been accumulated over the years which has become a dominant part of the local landscape of Pallikaranai instead of the beautiful marshlands situated right behind it. Local residents have complained again and again about not only the overpowering stench that emanates from the surroundings but also about the fact that the dump yard is the cause for many species of bird and plant life to be put in mortal danger.
A local resident, Mr. Mainak Banerjee, who lives in Pallikaranai says, “The government has been notified by local residents, environmental organizations and students again and again, and even after the massive fire in 2011 to either try and conserve the marshland or remove the dump yard to some other place but not much has been done in its support.” Sewage from the dump yard as well as non-biodegradable garbage finds its way into that freshwater swamp which will not only harm the natural aquifers of the wetland but also endanger the life of plant, bird and animal species in the marsh.
According to the Conservancy Inspector of the Corporation dump yard, Mr. Senthil, nothing has been done by the government to clear out or dispose of garbage. Only the rag pickers are allowed to come and take away garbage from the non-biodegradable heap which helps in some way whatsoever. But there is no proper way of garbage disposal in the area. He also feels that the marshlands have been deeply affected because of the dump yard beside it and the fire in the marshlands might have been caused by some kind of explosive in the waste that is dumped in the yard.
The wetland ecosystem is extremely sensitive in nature and requires a certain kind of management process due to which many NGOs like Care Earth and others have now taken up the issue of conserving the wetlands through various community-driven programmes and by making people aware of the importance of the Pallikaranai wetland ecosystem. They hope that the government will fulfil its promise of completing the Reserve Forest Plan that it took up for the conservation of the marshlands.
- Pallikaranai: Conserving Biodiversity (preeia.wordpress.com)
- Are Wetlands Nature’s Best Defense Against Sea Level Rise? (science.kqed.org)