- Chennai is blessed with several water bodies ranking from lakes, creeks, rivers and backwater canals.
About the wetland
- The Pallikaranai wetland is one such. This is a freshwater marsh. At 80 sq km, the marshland is the only surviving wetland ecosystem of the city and is among the last few remaining natural wetlands of South India.
- It is an ecosystem teeming with a variety of flora and fauna — 115 species of birds, 10 species of mammals, 21 species of reptiles, 10 species of amphibians, 46 species of fishes, 9 species of butterflies, and 114 species of plants. It is also home to reptiles such as Russell’s viper and birds such as the glossy ibis, grey-headed lapwings and pheasant-tailed jacana.
- The marshland is a sensory experience — while sight of the birds will make for a visual treat, one will also be treated to noxious fumes from burning waste and foul smells from the nearby garbage dump.
- Besides the dump, indiscriminate construction, dumping of waste water (by a Metrowater treatment plant and from nearby residential and commercial spaces) into the marsh are affecting the ecosystem.
- Once spread over 5,000 hectares, in 50 years, we have lost 90% of the ecosystem due to development and city expansion. In 2007, as an effort to protect the remaining wetland from shrinking further, the undeveloped areas in the region were notified as a reserve forest. In March 2018, the state government announced that it would commence the eco-restoration of the wetland.
- While efforts are on to restore and protect the marshland, the lessons learnt from it could apply to water bodies across the country that are facing similar threats to their existence.