CHENNAI: Concerned residents of Besant Nagar and other south Chennai localities close to the shore gathered at the Elliot’s Beach to condemn the proposed six-lane elevated expressway project along the coast on Friday. As part of the ‘Save the Beach’ campaign they distributed pamphlets to visitors at the beach in an effort to build public awareness against the project on the occasion of World Environment Day.
The campaigners added colour to their protest by hiring professional stilt-walkers from Vellore who caught the eye of all the passers-by. A group of artists strummed on guitars to pull the crowds. The young and the old got together to raise colourful banners with messages to save the beach. “The project will endanger the beach environment and affect the livelihood of fisherpeople who depend on it,” said T. Venkat, one of the campaigners. The expressway, which will run from the Light House point to the East Coast Road touching all the fishing villages along this stretch, has evoked fear of displacement among the coastal communities.
Pattinapakkam fishing panchayat representative A. Gangadharan said the concerns of fishermen were being ignored by the project authorities and tenements proposed for their relocation during the project construction phase were too tiny for any family to live decently. Regular beach users also expressed concern over the loss of places of recreation if such projects were to come up by the beach. “We want the beach to remain as a beach and not be hijacked for infrastructure projects,” said V.A. Subramaniam, a Besant Nagar resident. Over 1,000 people have signed a memorandum against the project and submitted it to the Chief Secretary. The memorandum argues that the proposed project instead of decongesting the Marina, as proposed in the feasibility report, will only further increase traffic in the area by attracting traffic from all over the city to the expressway.