From 13,500 acres in 1972, the Pallikaranai marshland has shrunk to 1,500 acres. At least 1,000 residential properties and government bodies such as MRTS Perungudi and the National Institute of Ocean Technology (NIOT) have encroached upon the marshland.
The degradation of this freshwater marshland started in 1980 when the Greater Chennai Corporation started using the ecologically-rich wetland to dump solid waste. The marshland has not been spared by anyone including religious organizations, central and state-owned entities, and educational institutions. The list of encroachers goes on.
Pallikaranai marsh is home to nearly 115 species of birds, 10 species of mammals, 21 species of reptiles, 10 species of amphibians, 46 species of fishes, 9 species of butterflies. Some migratory birds here include White ibis, cormorants, herons, and coots. It has bird biodiversity of about four times that of Vedanthangal,” says Devan T, an activist. Indeed, a huge number of migratory birds, such as waterfowls and waders, are also sighted on the mudflats of the marshland between June and December.
However, their population has sharply dwindled now due to the dumping of garbage in the marshland. The dumping not only affects the bird species but also other flora and fauna found in the region
Due to the pollution caused by waste dumped, aquatic life in these waters including fish, snails, and frogs are often found floating dead on the surface of the water by bird watchers. “If the dumping of waste is not checked somehow, there won’t be any birds or fish left in the ecosystem.
Some birds like spot-billed duck, Indian-spotted eagle, fulvous whistling duck, booted eagle, osprey have already disappeared from the wetlands of Pallikaranai. This creates an ecological imbalance in the system: if the predators such as eagles become rare, the population of reptiles increases.
The State government should strive to obtain the status of a designated protected area to the Pallikaranai Marshland by eliminating the land fill.