TN forest dept takes steps to have Pallikaranai marshland under Ramsar sites


The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has warned of an imminent catastrophe if nature is not treated properly with heat waves, excessive rain, floods, landslips and landslides causing havoc. The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC COP26) in Glasgow, Scotland is underway from October 31 where global leaders have promised to conserve the environment and thereby protect the planet.

Taking a cue from these environmental warnings and initiatives and the Madras High Court coming down heavily on it, the Tamil Nadu government has taken steps to conserve the Pallikaranai marshland which is in close proximity to Chennai’s happening place, the Old Mahabalipuram Road (OMR) where most of the IT companies have set up shop.

The Tamil Nadu forest and environment department has taken steps to have Pallikaranai Marshland declared a ‘Ramsar’ site. This is following an order of the Madras High Court to make Pallikaranai Marshland a Ramsar site as also to work for a bird sanctuary there.

A Ramsar site is to protect environmentally fragile areas after an intergovernmental treaty signed at the Iranian city of Ramsar in 1971 under the auspices of the United Nations. The Ramsar treaty has come into effect to conserve and maintain wetlands. India is a signatory to the treaty and it came into effect in the country in 1982.

The forest and environment department has commenced awareness programmes to enlighten the people living around the marshland about steps to get the area declared a Ramsar site.

The department has also taken steps to educate people on the importance of conservation of wetlands and marshlands for the future generations. The marshlands and wetlands play a major role in the conservation and protection of wetlands.

Justice Kirubhakaran (since retired) had in a landmark judgment directed the state government and specifically the Tamil Nadu forest and environment department to prevent any non-forestry activities in the marshland. He had also directed the government to reclaim unutilized land allotted to government industries and institutions. The forest department, according to highly placed sources, has begun action to reclaim unutilised land from government industries.

Any land that is part of Pallinkaranai marshland and provided to individuals, institutions, or industries must be immediately reclaimed, the judge had ordered. Sources in the forest department said that the government has commenced steps to reclaim the land that is part of the Pallikaranai marshland.

Since the judgment, the department of forest and environment has taken steps to prevent the disposal of municipal solid waste, treated or untreated effluents, or sewage into the marsh.

The government has also commenced fencing the marshland on all sides and removed blocks in water channels. The high court had ordered to provide a compliance report by December 21, 2021, on the amount of work that has been carried out to preserve the environment and the marshland.

R. Padmanabhan, Director, Socio-Economic Development Foundation, a think tank based out of Madurai and actively involved in the conservation of environment, told IANS,” Getting Ramsar notification to Pallikaranai is the need of the hour and this would give international status to the marshland that helps conservation of wetlands. With the climate convention in Glasgow stressing the need for reducing global temperature or rather not to allow it to rise above 1.5 degrees Celsius, conservation of Pallikaranai marshland is the right step and the Honourable Madras High court has come with the guidelines regarding the same.”