The Pallikaranai marsh which is the only urban wetland in the city of Chennai has shrunk to barely a tenth of its size in the time span from 1965 to 2013.
What has happened?
- The Pallikaranai marsh is one of the largest urban wetlands in India and the only one located in the city limits of Chennai.
- While originally a backwater of the Bay of Bengal, the salt marsh has transformed immensely and now its salinity has reduced considerably due to freshwater ingestion from the sub-urban tanks and the rains.
- The size of the Pallikaranai marsh was 5500 hectares in 1965. Today, it barely has a size of 600 hectares.
- Most of the land in the Pallikaranai Marsh has been diverted for infrastructure development like construction of office complexes, educational institutes, and residential complexes.
- In its original form, the marsh water is a crucial component of the urban ecosystem and provides crucial ecosystem support such as fishing, recreation flood mitigation, and groundwater recharge.
- However, due to the destruction of the surrounding regions around the marsh, its groundwater recharge potential has suffered and consequently, the groundwater level in the nearby localities has gone down.
- The construction of buildings in the area has also caused risks to the flying of birds and this has lead to the fall in the number of birds in the sanctuary.
- The presence of dump yards in the region is also a threat to the eco-sensitivity of the marshland as it causes more CO2 and methane emissions than it absorbs.
Why is the marsh necessary?
The Pallikaranai marsh is a crucial step-point in the Central Asian Flyway between the birds who come from their breeding grounds in the far north like Russia to their winter habitat in the South. If destroyed, the Birds will have no place to rest and recuperate in their journey.