In a meeting held on Tuesday, fishermen and environmentalists strongly opposed the government proposal to relocate 1,356 slum tenements and evict more than 3,000 hutments in Srinivasapuram to create a 15-acre park near Adyar Creek.
They also objected to the development of a 45-lakh square-feet commercial hub which includes theatres and hotels at Foreshore Estate.
“These proposals are anti-poor and overlook fishermen's demand for more housing. The proposed intensive commercial development are bound to severely affect their livelihood,” remarked R.Saravanan, resident of Urur Kuppam who obtained information about the integrated plan by filing a series of RTIs.
In 2009, after citing reasons of delay caused by World Bank procedures, the State government suspended the tsunami rehabilitation project to rebuild 3,576 slum tenements at Srinivasapuram and Foreshore Estate and decided to develop them on its own. However, the fishermen disagreed with the government enumeration and have been demanding for more tenements. They also raised apprehension about amalgamating various kuppams (fishing hamlets) that have differing traditional fishing rights and practices into a single housing project.
Overlooking these objections, the government went ahead with a proposal to club 27.5 acres belonging to the Tamil Nadu Housing Board (TNHB) and 23.5 acres belonging to the Tamil Nadu Slum Clearance Board (TNSCB) along the Marina to develop an attractive beach front. The Tamil Nadu Urban Infrastructure Financial Services limited (TNUIFSL) was asked to develop the Marina Integrated Plan that will combine ongoing housing projects and also promote private sector participation to generate revenues.
The integrated plan has recommended that the Srinivasapuram settlement be removed from its present location since it pollutes Adyar Creek and proposes to provide tenements for 2,584 families evicted at the Foreshore Estate. The rehabilitation of the residents who are left out has not been decided yet.
The commercial developments on the TNSCB and TNHB lands would fetch about Rs 2,909 crore net surplus for the government, concludes the report. The State government has approved the integrated plan in principle.
“By going for a multi-storied model and by increasing the FSI, the integrated plan has released about six acres of TNSCB land for commercial development. At a time when the government is expressing inability to find land within the city for rehabilitating fishermen and slum dwellers, and forcing them to settle in faraway areas such as the Kannagi Nagar, how could it give the slum board land for commercial development”, asked Nityanand Jayarman of the Save Chennai Beaches Campaign.
When contacted, senior officials of the TNUIFSL said they are only handholding the project and the final decision has to be taken by the government.