Until the late 1980s, Susai’s entire family in Pattinapakkam was involved in fishing in the Adyar estuary. Now, only his son, Sahayam, ventures into the sea for fishing. The reason is that heavy pollution near the estuary does not allow much aquatic life to thrive.
“When I was young, there were no buildings close to the Adyar estuary and even till the Saidapet bridge. Only after the 1980s did buildings come up and the river turn into a garbage dump and sewage carrier. Earlier, fish used to leap out of the water at the estuary and there was plenty of catch. The water used to be crystal clear. Now, fish die in the stretch near the broken bridge as the river is polluted with sewage,” said 62-year-old Susai.
The income of many fishing households has trickled down to a minimum over the years because of the degradation of the river. “We can’t even find enough fish to cook leave alone sell. My son goes to sea and we manage with his meagre earnings,” said Susai.
Susai and his brother Antony were featured in the documentary on the Adyar made by Siddharth Muralidharan, a filmmaker.
“You can still find people fishing near the Broken Bridge as a habit. But, many often fall sick because of stepping into slushy stretch of river. Some are even considering taking up jobs as security staff to earn a living. Indigenous fishing must be recognised and the sewage that comes into the river must be treated,” said Mr. Muralidharan who moderated a conversation with representatives from fishing community at the Chennai Water Forum.