What are you going to do about it?

In maps The sea is likely to swallow these parts of Chennai by 2100(Image for representation)
news Environment Friday, November 17, 2017 - 14:27

The Velachery MRTS, the Perungudi dump yard, TCS, Tech Mahindra, Wipro and HCL buildings – these are but a few examples of crucial landmarks in south Chennai that will cease to exist by the year 2100, if we do not act now.

According to a 2012 'Coastal Zones of India' report prepared by Ahmedabad-based Satellite Application Centre (SAC), an unit of Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), Tamil Nadu is set to lose 3,209.33 sq km of coastal area prone to submergence if the sea level rises by even one metre.

A graphic representation of maps provided by SAC highlights portions that are likely to be submerged in blue. The red portions indicate areas that may be affected when there is a high tide.

According to environmentalists, the sea water will make its way into low lying areas through river mouths and make the lands uninhabitable.

So why is this report relevant now?

The Tamil Nadu government plans to release a Coastal Zone Management Plan (CZMP) and it must ideally account for Sea Level Rise (SLR). It should also contain the mandatory hazard line, long-term plans for fisher housing and prospective land-use. According to the Coastal Resource Centre, the state should have released the CZMP in 2012 but failed to. And despite ISRO's dire warnings, the government has allowed densification of industrial installations and urban sprawl in vulnerable coastal areas.

“Climate change and sea level rise are real and present dangers. The CZMP offers an opportunity to plan for the decongesting of the coast. Other countries are doing that. We must start retreating from the sea and improving our natural safeguards against extreme sea-borne events,” says Pooja Kumar of Coastal Resource Centre.
As per the submergence maps contained in the SAC's report, Chennai stands to lose 3.11 sq. km of critical industrial infrastructure, almost all in the Ennore region.

NTECL Vallur, all of TANGEDCO's power plants in Ennore, Kamarajar Port's existing and proposed infrastructure inside the Creek, HPCL and BPCL's oil terminals, the Minjur desalination plant and portions of CPCL's petrochemical refinery in Manali will be swallowed by the sea.

"That is not all," warns Pooja. "The groundwater resources of Araniyar-Kosasthalaiyar basin will be degraded due to tidal ingress and this will affect the entire city," she adds .

To make matters worse, both the Kodungaiyur and Perungudi dumpyards are likely to be submerged. "So the city will literally drown in trash," says Pooja.

The proposed petroleum refinery and Petrochemical Investment Region in Cuddalore and Nagapattinam, industrial installations and salt pans in Tuticorin and the Koodankulam nuclear reactors are located in vulnerable areas that are prone either to submergence or degradation due to tidal action.

"All this will happen by 2100 and it won't be sudden. It will be gradual and is already in motion. So we cannot sit back and leave it for the next generations to handle," says Pooja.

(Maps provided by Coastal Resource Centre)

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