Chennai Desalination Plant Draws First Blood

10:08 p.m. Many of you may have read about the ill-advised Nemmeli desalination plant set up in Sulerikattukuppam village, Kanchipuram district. This 100 mld desalination plant was set up despite and overriding the objections of local fisherfolk who feared that the plant’s marine structure will erode their beach and render them without a means to practice their livelihood. More problematically, they feared that the erosion caused by the plant will make them more vulnerable to the vagaries of the sea. Their protests were met by police action. On June 23, 2013, as the nation was awash with stories about Uttarakhand, 19 fishermen begged their way to bail after spending a month in jail. Their crime: Voicing their fear that the desalination plant will pose a danger to their lives and livelihoods.

Today, July 10, 2013, R. Chittibabu, aged around 26 and recently married, was the first casualty in Chennai’s new and mindless quest for water. The beach around Sulerikattukuppam has virtually disappeared because of the erosion triggered by the structures constructed in sea by Chennai Metrowater’s desalination plant. Over the last two years, nearly 75 metres of beach has disappeared from Sulerikattukuppam. This morning, Chittibabu’s boat capsized over the rocks dumped into sea by Metrowater at around 7.30 a.m. Chittibabu was grievously hurt after he hit the rocks and is now awaiting an expensive operation in a private hospital.

This October, if any cyclone strikes this part of Tamil Nadu, Sulerikattukuppam would be badly hurt. Let’s not blame the killer rain or climate change. Chennai’s media has celebrated the setting up of the desalination plant in Nemmelikuppam as a technological feat. Our experts at the Ministry of Environment and Forests have approved the plant and stated that the illiterate fisherfolk’s fears are unfounded. Now, we’re beginning to see casualties.

Koodankulam, Cheyyur, ILFS, SRM, Nagapattinam, Thoothukudi — I don’t believe the experts. They may be educated. But they lack spine. And they lack integrity.

– Nityanand J. 

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