It was a fervent plea to let them remain at a place where they have been living for generations. On Tuesday, residents of Nalla Thaneer Odai Kuppam (NTO Kuppam), a fishing village on the Ennore Expressway, staged a hunger strike urging the State Government to reconsider a proposal to demolish their houses to widen the road.

“The National Highways Authority of India, which is widening the road, wants to uproot us and shift us to tsunami quarters that are far away from the sea. What will fishermen do five kilometers away from the spot where they have been traditionally fishing? If there is no other option, the government can at least construct houses or provide plots on land close to the present spot,” said K. Madhavan, the village head.

“It is Chennai Port that needs the road, not us. Because of the port, over 1.5 km of the coast has been swept away. We have been moving our homes inland for 30 years now. The tsunami quarters are in a pathetic state and residents there have advised us against relocating. Rid with criminal activities, several cases have been registered at the local police station there,” said another fisherman in the area.

NTO Kuppam has 447 houses and 1,500 residents. Residents say there is enough space on the sides of the road to build new houses for the fishermen.

The Ennore Expressway is being widened as part of the Ennore Manali Road Improvement Project (EMRIP). Cherian Nagar is another area where over 50 houses have to be relocated. A source associated with the project said that unless the houses at NTO Kuppam houses are removed, the road cannot be widened. “They are encroaching upon land belonging to the highways department,” the source said.

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Deepa H. RamakrishnanJune 28, 2012

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