Port project will put 10 lakh people at risk of flooding: Jairam Ramesh

The construction of a mega port complex in North Chennai will put 10 lakh people at risk of flooding and hurt the livelihood of over 30,000 fisherman, Congress MP and former Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh said in the Rajya Sabha on Monday.

Speaking during a special mention in the Upper House, he said environmental destruction anywhere was a threat to environmental balance everywhere.

“The proposed construction of the mega port complex in North Chennai by a private company with dubious environmental credentials will irretrievably damage the Ennore-Pulicat ecosystem with its invaluable mangroves and salt marshes and the Kattupalli Barrier Island with its thickly vegetated sand dunes,” he said.

The barrier island separates Pulicat lake, the second-largest brackish water lake in India, from the Bay of Bengal. The Kattupalli dunes protect the hinterland from violent storms and salinity intrusion. The Ennore-Pulicat backwaters absorb rainwater and tidal storm surges. “Encroaching [on] these wetlands will place nearly 10 lakh people in the region at a heightened risk of disastrous flooding,” Mr. Ramesh added.

Erosion threat

Warning the Union Environment Ministry and the Tamil Nadu government of disastrous consequences, he said the erosion triggered by the port’s breakwaters will breach the narrow barrier separating Pulicat lake from the sea and merge the lake with the Bay of Bengal. “The project threatens the livelihood security of more than 30,000 fishermen who depend on the backwaters and the sea,” he said. Mr. Ramesh urged the Ministry of Environment to reject the proposal in its entirety.

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