The Madras High Court’s direction to the Greater Chennai Corporation to explore the possibility of reviving the link from Marina Loop Road to Besant Nagar, fishermen in the locality are worried over the loss of livelihood if the project is taken up. The road that once existed was washed away in the floods in 1970s.
This direction came close on the heels of another one that asked the civic body to remove fish vendors from the Marina Loop Road. According to K Bharathi, president, South India Fishermen Welfare Association, said that evicting fish vendors would affect fishermen’s livelihood while reviving the old link would render several fisher folk homeless.
“It was a small bridge that could be used only by two-wheelers and autorickshaws. It has never been the main link to Pattinapakkam and Besant Nagar. Now, if the government goes ahead with reconstruction and widening of the bridge, the families in Urur Kuppam and Pattinapakkam will be affected, as the road goes through the middle of those fishing villages. Instead, the government should widen the Kamarajar Salai and DGS Dinakaran Road if they want to ease traffic,” he added.
The previous regime headed by the DMK had toyed with a proposal for an elevated corridor from Lighthouse to Palavakkam. But following opposition from the fisher folks, it was dropped after the AIADMK came to power in 2011.
Now that the court has asked the government to consider re-establishing the road, the families in the locality fear that they could lose their homes if the authorities go ahead with the widening of the road to link Besant Nagar, as most of them do not possess title deeds for the land.
“Even though the fishermen are living in the villages for several decades, the government has failed to provide patta and other documents. We will be affected if the government decides to acquire land for widening. Even now, we do not have enough space for drying fishing nets and halt boats. If the road is widened for vehicle movement, even the little available space will be taken away from us,” rued a fisherman on condition of anonymity.
Meanwhile, following the High Court’s direction, the civic body has enumerated 356 vendors selling fishes on Marina Loop Road. Of them, 269 vendors are from Nochikuppam and Nochi Nagar. As per the court order, 356 fish vendors would get allotment in the new market that is going to be created on one acre of land.
“If the vendors from various fishing villages given shop allotment in the same place, it could create rift within the community resulting in clashes. We are traditionally dependent on the sea. We had agreed to the enumeration only after the Fisheries Minister promised us of restoring our space,” Bharathi added.
The Greater Chennai Corporation has proposed a fish market on an open space reserve (OSR) land on Loop Road. However, as per rules, OSR lands should be utilised for recreational purposes. The division bench of the Madras High Court had given slew of orders, including the reduction of shops in the beach, apart from evicting vendors from the Loop Road, to beautify the beach front on a par with popular beaches in other countries.
When contacted, a Chennai Corporation official refused to give the details stating that the issue was sub-judice. However, he said that steps would be taken based on the High Court directions. Sources said the civic body is mulling a bridge similar to Bandra-Worli Sea Link in Mumbai to connect Marina and Besant Nagar.