This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Aditya Lakshmi. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

Why The Ennore-Pulicat Protests Are More Than Just An Environmental Issue

More from Aditya Lakshmi

This post is part of theYKA Climate Action Fellowship, a 10-week integrated bootcamp to work on stories that highlight the impact of climate change on India’s most marginalized. Click here to find out more and apply.

I visited Ennore in Tamil Nadu for the first time as a part of a “toxic tour” arranged by two organisations in Chennai, i.e. Poovulagin Nanbargal and Chennai Climate Action Group. I was surprised to see the presence of enormous, heavy-duty trucks parked on the right side of the road. Every few minutes, one after the other, these trucks crossed me. 

This was a few meters away from Nalla Thanni Odai Kuppam, the settlement where the local community members live. Beyond this settlement was the sea. I had read about the heavy industrialisation of North Madras and the ecological destruction this had caused before, but witnessing it firsthand filled me with immense rage.

Adani Port
Representative Image.

By understanding the history of the construction of North Madras, and the continuous assault on the land and its people, it dawned on me how what I was witnessing wasn’t just an environmental issue but one that had its roots in the history of Brahmanism, colonial occupation, and more recently, neoliberal capitalism. 

Let me explain. As per history, the existence and rigidity of the caste system and the rule of the brahmin and other savarna community members only helped the white colonisers to further divide and rule. In his book Madras Rediscovered, the author S Muthiah speaks about the establishment of Fort St George by the British and the settler’s houses being constructed to the northern and southern side of the Fort.

This portion was marked as the “White Town” for the white settlers. The “Old Black Town” (which would be today’s High Court Campus) and the “New Black Town” (which forms the George Town area today) were marked for Indian or indigenous community members to settle in. 

Muthiah writes, “The ‘urban agglomeration’ of the Fort with ‘White Town’ within and ‘Black Town’ without, was the genesis of today’s metropolis.” He adds, “Meanwhile, the industrial northern and western parts of Madras — constituted largely by Ennore, Tiruvottriyur, Sembium, Avadi and Ambattur — became areas where the auto industry began to develop post-world war II.”

Once the British left, the upper and middle class and caste community members hegemonised and occupied the southern urban and peri-urban parts of Madras, ensuring that the capital accumulated by them in the form of land was circulated within their own caste circles. This led to further ear-marking of North Madras as a sacrificial zone for industrial growth and development, which continues to this day and has only worsened. 

Naomi Klein, in her lectureLet them drown, connected the question of climate with that of occupation. According to her, certain areas are marked as sacrificial zones, wherein massive extraction of natural resources affected the local community members, their cultures and their identities. Klein views climate change as a product of “colonisation, patriarchy and capitalism”.

Borrowing from Klein’s work, I would like to situate the historical construction and degradation of the Ennore-Pulicat region after being marked as a sacrificial zone. The construction of the periphery here is founded on the ethos of ecological casteism and capitalism. 

The working-class population living in the Ennore-Pulicat region comprises mostly Dalit, Adivasi and fishing community members. The smoke-filled air, the proliferation of industries, the violations in the emission limits and the erosion of sea structures that I witnessed at the coast are destroying the livelihoods and identities of the local community members.

A recent report called Poison In The Air published by Chennai Climate Action Group verifies empirically that six industries in the Manali-Ennore region have violated their emission limits, further endangering the lives of the working-class population living there. This report also highlighted the increased rate of co-morbidities that were seen in the community members due to their parallel exposure to the threats of Covid-19. 

In another article titled A Pulicat Story: The Lagoon That Protects a City, naturalist M Yuvan warns the readers about how the rapid colonisation of the Kattupalli village by the huge port proposed by the Adani group would endanger and bring to extinction the complete area of Pulicat and its people.

Playground
Image provided by the author.

When we reached the Burma Nagar ground in Ennore, a strange sight met my eyes. A group of children were playing football to the left of the ground. On the right, a stage was being set up for a rally by the BJP. Beyond the ground stood the giant structure of the Ennore Thermal Power Plant. 

Travelling a bit further, at the VLC bridge, in the backwaters of the Ennore creek, a few fishing community members had thrown their nets into the water. Tints of oil spill were visible in the water of the Kosasthalaiyar river. Enclosing the waterbody were the structures of North Chennai Thermal Power Station and Vallur Thermal Power Project. 

It struck me how in both the locations of the playground and the flyover bridge, the very place where people live, love, eat and sleep is surrounded and impacted by industries, thermal power plants and refineries.  

Flyash spillage in Seppakkam
Fly ash spillage in Seppakkam.

One of the infamous pieces of evidence for the amount of ecological damage in Ennore is the presence of fly ash ponds. As the name suggests, fly ash is a byproduct of thermal power plants and it spills through the pipes carrying it. I saw the spread of fly ash in Seppakkam. Opposite to the deposit was a small water body. The tour organisers said that nothing, no flora or fauna, could sustain or grow in there. 

In 1991, according to the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) notification, all the state governments were required to prepare coastal zone management plans. These coastal zone management plans are supposed to say how the coastal zone would be used. 

Meanwhile, in 1996, the coastal zone management plan under the CRZ notification declared the Ennore-Pulicat region as a “no development zone”. Nityanand Jayaraman, a social activist, says that this map was hidden by 1997 and the development of the industries was permitted in the “no development zone”. “This old map resurfaced in 2017 because we got a copy of it through RTI which was filed,” he says. 

Karthik Gunasekar, a volunteer working with Chennai Climate Action Group, says that there were 34 red-category industries in the Ennore-Manali industrial corridor. “We need to question so as to why there are no red-category industries in places like Besant Nagar,” he adds. 

For two decades, rampant industrialisation has occurred in an ecologically sensitive and vulnerable area. During this period, the land has been degraded and the working-class population has been at acute climate risk. 

Jayaraman says, “With the resurfacing of the original approved map, we understand that the law has been violated, a fraud has been committed, to divert more than 1,500 acres of wetland, over two decades.”

References

  1. CCAG. (2020). Poison in the air: The regulatory black hole over ennore manali industrial zone. Chennai: Chennai Climate Action Group.
  2. Klein, N. (2017). Let Them Drown: The Violence of Othering in a Warming World. In V. Prasad, Will the flower slip through the asphalt: Writers respond to capitalist climate change (pp. 29-49). Delhi: LeftWord Books.
  3. Muthiah, S. (2014). Madras Rediscovered: A Historical Guide to Looking Around (Seventh Edition). Chennai: Westland.
  4. Yuvan, M. (2020). A lagoon that protects the city – A Pulicat story. Sanctuary Asia, 36-41.
Featured Image via storyofennore
You must be to comment.

More from Aditya Lakshmi

Similar Posts

By Krithiga Narayanan

By Puja Bhattacharjee

By Aditya Lakshmi

Wondering what to write about?

Here are some topics to get you started

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below