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Protest against elevated expressway on December 31

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STIR PLAN: Fisher community leaders at a press meet to announce their opposition to the elevated highway project, on Monday.
STIR PLAN: Fisher community leaders at a press meet to announce their opposition to the elevated highway project, on Monday.

Staff Reporter

“No fishing village was consulted while preparing feasibility report”

CHENNAI: Putting up a united front against the elevated expressway project along the beach, 10 fishing villages along the stretch came together here on Monday to pass a resolution against the project.

Addressing a press conference called by the panchayats of the 10 fishing villages from Nochikuppam to Kottivakkam Kuppam, the community leaders said that the project would result in eviction of fishing and other low-income settlements, and totally disrupt their livelihoods during and after construction.

“None of the fishing villages was consulted while preparing the feasibility report,” said R. Sundaramoorthy, Urur Kuppam panchayat treasurer. “The report cites that at least 1,207 households will be evicted to construct the elevated expressway. But no one is telling us exactly which houses will go.” It was also pointed out that both the building of temporary shelters for fisher communities under the tsunami rehabilitation scheme and the highway project were being undertaken simultaneously. “In some of the sketches, both the projects overlap. There is complete lack of information,” said T.Balu, Mullai Nagar panchayat president.

He added that though no action has been taken against the innumerable Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) violations along the stretch, fishermen who have been living in the place for generations are being evicted in the name of progress.

“The alignment has been carefully planned taking into account rich residential localities in Kottivakkam and Thiruvanmiyur. Poorer communities are being targeted because we are expendable,” he said.

Semmalar Sekar of the Nochikuppam Panchayat said that fishermen depend on dragnets which had to be pulled 200 metres inside the coast.

“If there is an obstruction like the expressway, it will gravely affect our livelihood. It would also affect hatcheries of marine animals and fishes along the coast.”

He added that all talk about temporary eviction was just eye-wash. “This is like cheating a child by offering chocolates. Any project has to take into account our rights to life and livelihood.”

All 10 panchayats along the stretch will come together under the banner of Fishermen’s Land and Livelihood Rights Council (FLLRC) to stage a protest outside the Collectorate on December 31.

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