Friday, April 03, 2009

Nip Expressway Proposal in the Bud, Residents Say

CHENNAI, 03 April, 2009 – Beach-lovers, fisherfolk and residents of Santhome, Besant Nagar and Thiruvanmiyur today launched the “Save Chennai Beaches” campaign to convince the Government to abandon its proposal to construct a 6-lane, 7.5km expressway along the beach from Marina to ECR in Kottivakkam. Kicking off a colourful awareness rally along the Besant Nagar beach, residents signed a petition addressed to all political parties urging them to present their stance on the beach expressway. Several fishing community leaders also participated in the rally because of the anticipated impacts of the road on their community and livelihood. “The expressway will disrupt fishing activity, displace coastal residents, disturb nesting turtles, damage environmentally sensitive areas like the beach, Theosophical Society and Adyar Estuary, and do little to reduce overall traffic congestion,” the Campaign said. “For residents along the alignment, the Expressway will be an important poll issue as the mega-road will change the face of these areas for the worse.”

The expressway is to run from Gandhi Statue on Marina, through Nocchikuppam, Nocchinagar, Dommingkuppam, Rajiv Gandhi Nagar, Bhavani Kuppam, Mullimanagar, Sreenivasa Puram, Pattinapakkam, Urur Kuppam, Olcott Kuppam, Odai Kuppam, Odaimanagar, Thiruvanmiyur Kuppam and Kottivakkam Kuppam. A Detailed Feasibility Report on the project admits that more than 500 residential buildings will be demolished, and that the fishing villages along the alignment will be “temporarily relocated.” The report also says that construction activity will severely disrupt the nesting of the Olive Ridley Turtles, an endangered species listed in Schedule 1 of the Wildlife Act, and result in decline of migratory birds using the Adyar Estuary sanctuary. To be implemented in two phases, the Expressway's first phase will run from Marina to 5th Avenue in Besant Nagar.

Both phases run through the beach and ecosensitive areas, and violate the CRZ Notification, 1991. “The proposal is a subversion of the masterplan as it finds no mention in the document; there are numerous issues relating to CRZ and other environmental laws. Given the magnitude of the legal issues, one is hopeful that persistent public pressure along with presentation of alternatives will convince the Government of the futility of this proposal,” said eminent advocate Sriram Panchu.

The Theosophical Society has said that the Expressway running close to the Society grounds will affect the serenity of the green space, and disturb the entire ecosystem.

The Campaign has said that the Highways Department should explore alternatives to reduce traffic congestion. It has suggested that if the Government combined the four proposals already on the table, the stated need for the Elevated Expressway could be met. The four proposals include upgradation of roads near Pattinapakkam, linking Greenways Road to Durgabai Deshmukh Road and renovating the abandoned bridge near Thiruvika Bridge over the Adyar River, reclamation of the 4-lane carriageway on LB Road by making alternative arrangements for parking, and construction of a graded flyover at the entrance to ECR near Thiruvanmiyur Depot. Residents, however, underlined that all these proposals must be carried out keeping in mind the legally guaranteed rights of pedestrians and street vendors. The Campaign also urged the Government to improve public transportation infrastructure, and discourage private vehicle use. With more than 800 private vehicles hitting the streets everyday, no amount of investment in new roads will suffice.

Save the beach campaign

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