About 20 residents of Chennai have joined the protests of Parandur villages affected by the second airport project, saying the project could affect the downstream areas of the Adyar river and make it vulnerable to disasters.
These residents, retiree D Hariparanthaman, musician TM Krishna, environmentalist Nityanand Jayaraman and disability rights activist Deepak Nathan have written an open letter to the Tamil Nadu State Disaster Management Authority (TNSDMA) asking the state government to cancel the project.
Residents of 13 villages of Parandur in Kancheepuram district have been protesting for over 100 days as the new green airport project seeks to acquire 4,791.29 hectares of land, 2,605 of which are wetlands, destroying their homes and farmland.
On Tuesday, the three ministers had discussions with members of the affected villages in the secretariat to convince them of the government’s plans. This is the second such meeting.
On August 26, the Tamil Nadu government announced that it would provide compensation of 3.5 times the market value of their land, alternative land to move to, and a government job for a member of the affected families. But, the citizens are still against the new airport in the green area.
“Their protests are as much about our food security as they are about the city’s flood safety,” the December 19 letter from Chennai residents said.
“We are residents of Adyar basin areas and concerned citizens of other parts of Chennai. All of us were badly affected – directly or indirectly – by the Chennai floods of 2015, and many of us were involved in rescue and rehabilitation work,” they said.
“As important as protecting wetlands and toilets is, the implications of this proposal for the city of Chennai should disturb planners. Increasing built-up area and impervious land cover on an 18 sq km site in a river basin already under severe hydrological stress is a recipe for disaster.
It has been pointed out that in the disastrous floods of December 2015, among other factors, the macro drains were flooded by excessive discharges from their catchments.
“The lands that will be developed at the airport are located in the 500 square km southwest of the rocks of the Adyar river”, they said, and explained that the discharge generated will be lower in open lands and vegetation.
“This is the same basin that flows into Adyar from Manimangalam, Perungalathur, Tambaram, Mudichur and Varadarajapuram, all areas that were heavily damaged in the 2015 floods. It is noteworthy that these are areas unaffected by Chembarambakkam discharges. Rather, Chembarambakkam’s discharge into Adyar forms .
One of the main reasons for the 2015 floods was the uncontrolled release of excess water from the Chembarambakkam reservoir.
A report by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) on the Chennai floods said that the discharge from the reservoir was only 800 cumecs, which “could have contributed from the parallel connection (uncontrolled (Chembarambakkam) reservoirs and flood flow from Manimangalam, Perungalathur and Tambaram”) and Chennai. Its peak flood when it entered has been estimated to be about 1,34,195 cusecs, the flood carrying capacity of Adyar River is only about 72,000 cusecs”.
“That is, that southwestern catchment which includes the Parandur airport site alone contributed 3,000 m3/ to Adyar,” the open letter said.
“Adyar’s flood carrying capacity is a hard hydrological ceiling that the city needs to consider. Although the carrying capacity and network of micro drains can be increased, not much can be done to improve the capacity of natural drains, especially the likes of Adyar and Coum, as the flood plains have been heavily urbanized. A typical engineering response to such development would be to provide an efficient stormwater micro-drainage network and rainwater harvesting structures on site. Micro drains are only as efficient as the main drains, in this case the Adyar, are capable of receiving their runoff. And a project that proposes paving over landscape-sized rainwater harvesting structures like eris and wetlands cannot be offset by man-made rainwater harvesting structures.”
They indicated how to build the international airport ₹20 billion with the capacity to handle 100 million passengers per year would naturally lead to further urbanization and construction of transport networks, logistics facilities and real estate development.
“TNSDMA should not only pick up the pieces after a disaster, but also ensure that the state does not become more vulnerable to disasters. In this case, TNSDMA is clearly failing,” their letter said.
“We request the State Disaster Management Authority to conduct its own investigations to ascertain the basis of our concerns and take measures with the Government of Tamil Nadu to influence the course of events so that the farmers of Parandur and the residents of Chennai do not face hardship.”