‘Madras', unlike other metros, had been bestowed with a rich biodiversity in those days, say the nature lovers. The biodiversity included marine ecosystem, forests, creek, marshland, jheels, lagoons and islands.
K. Venkataraman, Officer-in-Charge and Director, Marine Biology Regional Centre, Chennai of the Zoological Survey of India, said that under the marine eco-system, the Chennai coast starting from the Chennai harbour up to Mahabalipuram had rocky shore, sand dune vegetation, coral reefs, pelagic, mangrove and benthic eco-systems.
Way back in 1935, Gopal Iyer, a researcher, conducted a study on coral reefs, present along the stretch between Chennai harbour and Mahabalipuram. Dr. Venkataraman said another example for the presence of coral reefs along the Chennai coast was the acquiring of coral reef species such as octopus, sea horse and star fishes from the fishermen's catch at Srinivasapuram, Foreshore Estate. Naturalists say the 270-hectare green lung in the heart of the city — Guindy National Park — is another classic example of a real forest within city limits.
Close to the coast, a beautiful creek was located between Foreshore Estate and Besant Nagar area, also a unique eco-system. Both were home for a variety of birds and other animals, says K.V. Sudhakar, member, Madras Naturalists' Society.
A little further down on the south-western periphery of the city, the Pallikaranai marshland also attracted a variety of local and migratory birds. The lagoons in Pulicat attracted huge flocks of flamingoes. Similar is the case with the Madhavaram and Manali jheels, which was a home for the local migrant Pheasant-tailed Jacana. Rapid urbanisation has eaten away many of these natural resources and the Pallikaranai Marshland, now a dumping yard, and the sand dunes in Kattuppalli, which are disappearing due to development of a port in Manali area. Guindy National Park is the only natural resource that has been protected after it was declared as a national park, complain the naturalists.