Protesting against the eviction drive by the Greater Chennai Corporation (GCC), a group of Park Town residents entered the Cooum river on Wednesday. Men and women waded into the dirty, sewage waters of one of the oldest yet the most polluted waterways in the city demanding that authorities stall all eviction related activities in their area. Their main demand was to be relocated to tenements within city limits and not to Perumbakkam, about 30 kilometers away.
The group stood in the Cooum waters for almost five hours before authorities persuaded them to come out. Later during the day, director Pa Ranjith arrived at the spot and lent his voice to the residents.
Questioning the government’s timing of the eviction, that coincides with the ongoing Northeast monsoon season, Pa Ranjith tweeted, “The most legitimate demand placed forward by slum dwellers in Chennai — who get to lose their homes, their education and job opportunities, — is to be housed within the Chennai area. Your government is chasing away not just people by their votes too."
As part of the Cooum Restoration Project, GCC began demolishing about 50 houses on Wednesday. When protests began, operations were stalled but according to reports, GCC officials are about to go ahead with the plan. According to reports, a petition has been submitted to the managing director of the Tamil Nadu Slum Clearance Board (TNSCB) on Tuesday, seeking his intervention to allot residents houses in nearby areas.
So far, over 1,720 houses have been removed from Sathyavani Muthu Nagar and Gandhi Nagar. Residents from these areas are being resettled to TNSCB tenements in Perumbakkam, an area already riddled with several civic and social issues. Additionally, Perumbakkam lies 30 kilometers from the city, adding to their woes.
Chennai River Restoration Trust (CRRT) identified 47 human settlement areas along the Adyar River banks. Of this number, about 10 were beyond the project area and 10 were unaffected by the project and so excluded from the relocation drive. In November this year, GCC Commissioner G Prakash informed the media that about 90% of the encroachers along the Cooum River were relocated. The Cooum restoration project is aimed at cleaning up the polluted river.