Q: In South Chennai, Pallikarnai Marsh is a beautiful wetland which has been home to over 100 species of birds resident & migratory, many small mammals, amphibians & fish species. Sadly the state government is not doing enough to protect this marsh which is now becomeing a wasteland dumping of the city’s garbage. Everyday this space is shrinking by all the buildings coming around. Whom do we need to approach to stop all this and can any PIL be filed against the State Government by an individual for the state’s negligence in protecting its wetland & the species.

Asked by Swapna Sarit

A: Over the last two decades, several individuals, NGOs and even government departments have tried to save the Pallikaranai marshes from destruction. But the pressure to find land for garbage dumping, housing and office space has meant that large portions of the marsh have been eaten away. What remains is highly polluted with the city’s toxic waste, sewage and garbage. As per a draft notification issued by the Government on April 9, 2007, about 317 hectares of the marsh was to be declared as Reserve Forest. However, it is not clear whether this declaration has come into effect, as there were several delays with the boundary demarcation. If and when the notification comes into effect, at least a portion of the marsh will be legally protected from encroachment and garbage dumping. However, that will only be the beginning. Cleaning up the marsh and restoring it to ecological health will require a tremendous effort.

As for filing a PIL, that will not be necessary, as the Sai Nagar Residents Welfare Association and 98 others had filed a PIL in the High Court of Madras several years ago. The court then appointed a committee to look into the issue and provide a detailed report. The report is attached herewith and provides a detailed evaluation. However, you can file a Right to Information (RTI) petition to find out what action has been taken on the basis of the court appointed committee’s report. The RTI petition can be sent in the proper format to the Principal Secretary to Government, Environment and Forest Department, Fort St.George, Secretariat, Chennai 600 009.

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