Just minutes after hinting at a political announcement on his birthday, Kamal Haasan hit the headlines again. Certainly, the veteran actor has already started doing the ground work for the communication platform that he promised to his fans and the citizens of Tamil Nadu.
Fighting for the restoration of the Ennore Creek, he has blown the conch shell, announcing a war against pollution in the area which has choked the creek. In a series of Tweets today, the star seem to have joined the state's fishermen in their campaign of saving the Ennore Creek, a backwater located in Thiruvallur district.
Once the lifeline of the state when it came to absorbing excess water from towns, the creek is now dying a gradual death, thanks to the rampant encroachment and insfrastructural development without environmental consideration. Incidentally, one of the main reasons behind the Chennai floods in 2015, the blocked Creek performed barely in draining out the water. What added to the woes was the incessant rains.
Importance of the Ennore Creek
Once considered to be a natural drainage for Tamil Nadu, the creek was also the sole medium of livelihood for fishermen in the area. According to a report by The Hindu, the destruction of the creek has affected the livelihood of almost six villages.
However, things have gone from bad to worse for the fishermen of these villages. Their catch have reduced considerably and fishermen have to travel for miles into Pulicat for fish. Incidentally, when fishermen could earn up to Rs 500 daily till a decade ago can now hardly make up to Rs 100. This has affected their lives so much so that they had to shift from their professions. But that is not all, the pollution from the nearby North Chennai Thermal Power Station (NCTPS) and Vallur Thermal plant is so high that the fishermen have also contracted skin diseases.
While fly ash deposit from North Chennai Thermal Power Station (NCTPS) and Vallur Thermal plant has reduced the depth of the river from 15 feet to just one or two feet, there are places where even mounds are visible above the water level. D. Hariparanthaman, former judge, Madras High Court, once testified, "Oily effluents from surrounding industries and coolant water from NCTPS are being discharged into the river. We need development but not at the stake of natural resources."
Dumping of earth by the Kamarajar Port had also affected the salt pans, wetlands and mangroves in the region. Adding to the delapidating ecology are the Bharat Petroleum and Hindustan Petroleum who have their oil refineries built over the river.
What Kamal says
Requesting his fans and followers to take up things in their own hands and not wait for the government to act, Kamal Haasan reportedly said, "I hear that the work is on to encroach upon 1000 more acres of the creek in the guise of expanding Kamarajar Port Limited. Any state that does not give the poor the same help and priority that it gives to land dealers is like the riverbank that ignores a good river running by it. North Chennai will be flooded even if there are normal rains like last year."
According to a report by indiatoday, Kamal Haasan also said, "The Kosasthalaiyar river near Chennai has not yet turned into a drain and still provides livelihood to fishermen. This river is several times bigger than the Adyar and the Cooum rivers. We have lost 1090 acres from the creek due to selfish encroachments done with no environmental concern. The Vallur Thermal Plant and the North Chennai Thermal Power Plant continue to dump their ash into the Kosasthalaiyar. The government has been indifferent to this though environmental activists have been protesting against these violations for years."
He also pointed out at the government apathy, saying that talking about the issues with authorities is like "blowing a horn into a dead man's ear".
Meanwhile, the Coastal Resource Centre, which has also taken up arms against the state government appealed to the Chennai residents to understand the larger impact that the encroachment of the creek will cause. Pooja Kumar of the Coastal Resource Centre says, "The rest of Chennai has to understand that their safety depends on Ennore as well. In 2015, floods stopped the functioning of the Chennai Petroleum Corporation Limited in Manali and the city suffered as a result." She further added, "To make matters worse the encroachments are by the Government which is well aware of the danger it is putting people in."
Incidentally, owing to the success of the thermal power plants here, the government is planning to build the third stage of the North Chennai Thermal power station, irrespective of the fact that it is yet to get the consent. "This is going against the law because they haven't got the consent to establish, and also this means that the sanddunes in this region are under threat which is very disastrous for the ground water aquifers and the waste from the forest that is being cleared from the green belt is also being dumped in the region," she said.
The Ennore Creek is extremely important since it separates the sea water from the fresh water, thus providing Chennai its much-needed quota of drinking water. The city needs close to 125 million liters of water drawl everyday and if this water gets salinised, Chennai will be in deep water crisis.
The veteran actor's warning about the ecological state in the creek is not to be taken lightly, especially after the Chennai debacle in 2015. And as the actor rightly points out, "This is not a critique of the mistake already committed. Rather, this is a warning for the grave danger ahead. People can call a helpline number provided by the government when in trouble. But we are warning the people and the government before trouble strikes.We hope that the people will heed this alarm bell, and in the event that the government does not, we hope that the people will be able to set that right."