Está en la página 1de 31

MANAGEMENT PLAN

Conservation of
Pallikaranai Marsh

Abstract
A flexible, inclusive and knowledge based approach, which
can be broadly designated as the ‘Adaptive Management
Plan for the Conservation of Pallikaranai Marsh’ is being
recommended for the protection and conservation of
Pallikaranai Marsh

prepared by

& Care Earth


Table of Contents

..............................................................................................................1
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY...............................................................................3
1. INTRODUCTION.....................................................................................5
2. WETLANDS – OPERATIONAL DEFINITION.................................................5
3. GEOGRAPHICAL LOCATION OF PALLIKARANAI MARSH.............................8
4. BIODIVERSITY OF THE PALLIKARANAI MARSH.......................................10
5. ECOSYSTEM SERVICES OF THE PALLIKARANAI MARSH – FLOOD
MITIGATION AND WATER RETENTION.......................................................11
6. CURRENT STATUS OF THE PALLIKARANAI MARSH.................................16
.............................................................................................................19
7. ADAPTIVE MANAGEMENT PLAN FOR THE PROTECTION AND
CONSERVATION OF THE PALLIKARANAI MARSH........................................20
Executive Summary

A large part of south Chennai was historically a flood plain, which spread over 50 sq. km,
comprised of a large marsh (Pallikaranai marsh), smaller satellite wetlands, large tracts of pasture
land and patches of dry forests.

The presence of the freshwater aquifer running parallel to the coast has contributed rather
significantly to the expansion of Chennai’s boundaries in the south – which is one of the many
pointers to the presence and importance of the South Chennai Floodplain.

The Pallikaranai Marsh is located along the Coramandel Coast south of the Adyar Estuary. It is
surrounded by the IT-Corridor (Rajiv Gandhi Salai /erstwhile Old Mahabalipuram Road) and the
residential areas such as Perungudi, Siruseri, Pallikaranai, Madipakkam, Velachery, Taramani
etc. The original expanse of the marsh, estimated on the basis of the Survey of India toposheets
(1972) and aerial photographs (Corona) of the year 1965 was about 5500 ha, which has currently
been reduced to about 600 ha.

The uniquely heterogeneous hydrology and ecology of the Pallikaranai Marsh makes the marsh
one of the most diverse natural habitats of the country, with over 330 species of plants and
animals. The degradation of the Pallikaranai Marsh and the south Chennai Floodplain is the
primary driver for the floods in the landscape. Further, this degradation seems to be typified by
poor handling and disposal of Municipal Solid Waste through landfills within wetlands, ill planned
storm water drains, unregulated construction activity and the absence of a singular coordinating
agency.

A flexible, inclusive and knowledge based approach, which can be broadly designated as the
‘Adaptive Management Plan for the Conservation of Pallikaranai Marsh’ is being recommended
for the protection and conservation of Pallikaranai Marsh in specific and the south Chennai Flood
Plain in general. This plan accords equal consideration to people and nature, and in a manner is
a reconciliation of conservation and development goals Key elements of the Management Plan
include:

1. Establishment of a Coordinating Agency that would enable/facilitate multi-stakeholder


engagement for the protection and conservation of the Pallikaranai Marsh.

2. Preparation of a Detailed Management Plan which would include components such as on


ground demarcation of the marsh, soil and water assessments, ecological profiling,
habitat zonation, sedimentation studies, biodiversity assessments as well as feasibility
studies for improved management of solid waste and sewage disposal. It would also
involve evolving benchmarks for continued monitoring so that the effort of protecting the
marsh is sustainable and true to its original character and functioning.

3. Establishment of a Wetland Centre to facilitate learning and education, awareness


generation and capacity building; apart from provided structured and semi-structured
opportunities for recreation and nature watch.

4. Nomination as a Ramsar Site to accord international recognition, protection and support


for the Pallikaranai Marsh.

The financial outlay for such an intervention is estimated as Rs.9.4 crores.


1. INTRODUCTION

The criticality of protecting and conserving the Pallikaranai Marsh, which is located in south
Chennai needs no elaboration or further reiteration, especially in view of the sustained interest it
has evoked across the country, and globally over the last decade. The following document
therefore focuses on the strategy, processes and tools essentially for enabling the conservation
of this marsh.

2. Wetlands – Operational Definition

Wetlands are the most important of life-supporting ecosystems that have sustained human lives
and communities over the millennia. They are defined as ‘lands transitional between terrestrial
and aquatic systems where the water table is usually at or near the surface or the land is covered
by standing water that does not exceed 6 meters’. Evidently, this seemingly generic definition
facilitates the inclusion of a large gamut of habitats ranging from mangroves to peats and bogs.
This diversity while contributing to the enormous diversity of wetland organisms is also a
significant impediment in evolving overall management strategies and plans. Further, wetlands in
view of their transitional nature need to be managed with caution since the probability of losing
their ecological structure and integrity through a process called ecological flip is rather high.
Wetlands are therefore ideally managed using a decentralized framework of management; with
locale specific management processes and tools.

A large part of south Chennai was historically a flood plain as evidenced by the soil type of the
region, which is described as recent alluvium and granite gneiss. Spread over 50 sq. km, it
comprised of a large marsh (Pallikaranai marsh), smaller satellite wetlands, large tracts of pasture
land and patches of dry forests. The composite nature of the landscape is depicted in the
following diagram wherein the entire landscape is defined as a coastal plain with intermittent and
overlapping habitat types of cultivation, wetlands and scrub forests.
Fig 1: Habitat types of south Chennai Flood Plain

Locally known as Kazhiveli (a generic Tamil name for marshes and swamps), the Pallikaranai
marsh drained about 250 sq. km, through two outlets viz the Okkiyam Madavu (channel) in
Okkiyam thuraipakkam and the Kovalam Creek. It is imperative that the phrase ‘draining’ is to be
understood in the context of flood mitigation, ground water recharge and irrigation. It is not to be
deciphered as a one shot flushing of water. Remnant forests can be observed within the
Theosophical Society campus, Guindy National Park-IIT complex and the Nanmangalam Reserve
Forest.
It is also of significance that the smaller wetlands that surrounded the marsh served as the only
source of irrigation for the area, which thrived on paddy and green leafy vegetable cultivation.
This gave the marsh a legendary status since the villages did not have wells or dug-out ponds,
which are the norm in the northern districts of Tamil Nadu (TN).

The first known external manipulation of this system, which is part of the Coromandel Coast, was
the laying of the Buckingham Canal. Devised as a navigation canal in 1806, of 421.55 km length,
that connected Pedda Ganjam in Andhra Pradesh (AP) and Marakanam in TN, the canal served
the primary purpose of ferrying salt. It is not well known that the canal was under private
ownership and was then called the Cochrane Canal. In 1837, the Canal was taken over by the
East India Company and renamed as the Government East Coast Canal. In 1876, it was
rechristened the Buckingham Canal. The Buckingham Canal was devised as a salt water canal,
tidal to a great extent in those parts where the river bars are open and utilized the numerous
estuaries and backwaters along the East Coast.

The city of Chennai due to its immediate proximity to the neighbouring state of AP and the
presence of the extensive Pulicat Estuarine Complex to the north, and the Bay of Bengal to the
East, can expand only towards the west and south. The presence of the freshwater aquifer
running parallel to the coast has contributed rather significantly to the expansion of the city’s
boundaries in the south – which is one of the many pointers to the presence and importance of
the South Chennai Floodplain.

While unplanned and adhoc human interventions have contributed to the large scale decimation
of the landscape, the fundamental factor facilitating the degradation has been the continuation of
the rather archaic system of land classification in the state by which the Pallikaranai Marsh was
categorized as a wasteland.

While tracing the revenue history of Madras Presidency, Baden Powell distinguishes two periods,
viz. early and modern settlements. While the early settlements were based largely on previous
assessments, and encouraged territorial autonomy, the period that immediately preceded the
establishment of the settlement department in 1858 witnessed the use of ‘rigorous criteria’ and
involved the services of settlement and survey officers who mapped the lands. A broad
distinction

of occupied and unoccupied lands was made which, for the purposes of administration, was
described as follows: occupied land was cultivated land and unoccupied land was uncultivated
waste. While seemingly encouraging an increase of land under cultivation and individual
ownership, the process of surveying was an exercise to claim ‘wasteland’ and bring it under State
Control. Lands, excluding the forest tracts that were reserved, were classified into the following
finer categories: patta, assessed dry and wet waste, unassessed waste and poromboke (revenue
and forest). Assessed dry and wet wastelands were lands that were kept uncultivated until an
official allotment was made by the Revenue Department. This category of land included a range
of habitats such as marshes, seasonal wetlands, steep and rocky slopes, abandoned pasture
lands, and lands under shifting cultivation.

3. Geographical Location of Pallikaranai Marsh

Velachery
Taramani

Kandanchavadi Thiruvanmiyur
Madipakkam
Perungudi

Sevaram
Pallikaranai

Thoraipakkam

Okkiyamthoraipakkam

Sholinganallur
Map 1: showing Pallikaranai Marsh within the South
Chennai Flood Plain

The Pallikaranai Marsh is located along the Coramandel Coast south of the Adyar Estuary. It is
surrounded by the IT-Corridor (Rajiv Gandhi Salai /erstwhile Old Mahabalipuram Road) and the
residential areas of Perungudi and Thoraipakkam on the East, Siruseri-Sholinganallur villages on
the south, the residential areas of Pallikaranai, Madipakkam and Narayanapuram on the West
and Velachery, Taramani, Kandan Chavadi, Perungudi on the North. The original expanse of the
marsh, estimated on the basis of the Survey of India toposheets (1972) and aerial photographs
(Corona) of the year 1965 was about 5500 ha. Habitat loss of the marsh is discussed in the latter
sections of the report.
4. Biodiversity of the Pallikaranai Marsh

The uniquely heterogeneous hydrology and ecology of the Pallikaranai Marsh makes the marsh
one of the most diverse natural habitats of the country. A project on ‘Inland Wetlands of India’
commissioned by the Ministry of Environment and Forests, Government of India had prioritized
Pallikaranai Marsh as one of the most significant wetlands of the country.

Biodiversity of Pallikaranai Marsh is typified by the presence of species representing various


faunal groups, of which birds, fishes and reptiles are the most prominent. It is the natural habitat
to some of the most endangered reptiles such as the Russell’s viper and birds such as the Glossy
Ibis, Pheasant tailed Jacana etc. The marsh has also had the distinction of new records of
reptiles and plants being described, on a rather regular basis since 2002.

Table1: Biotic Profile of Pallikaranai Marsh

Plant/Animal groups Number of


species

Plants 114

Butterflies 7

Crustaceans (crabs and prawns) 5

Mollusks (snails and clams) 9

Fishes 46

Amphibians (frogs and toads) 10

Reptiles 21

Birds 115

Mammals 10

Total 337
5. Ecosystem services of the Pallikaranai Marsh –
Flood Mitigation and Water Retention

Southern Chennai has experienced recurrent flooding notably since 2001-2002, although the
average annual precipitation has remained consistent with the overall trend of the last 200 years.
It is however important to note that since 1998 the city has witnessed intense rainfall days on a
regular basis (see graph). These short yet intense rainfall days triggered flash floods as also
water stagnation for prolonged duration. It is also of interest to note that many global cities that
are rapidly expanding and growing, as is the case with Chennai, are also being subjected to
recurrent, and yet times un-seasonal flooding. Further this seems to be more typical of cities that
are located on coasts.

Graph 1: Precipitation average for Chennai city for


the period 1995 – 2006

Note: The occurrence of intense rainfall days that triggered flash floods in the landscape.
Why does south Chennai get flooded is a question that is being studied over the last five years by
a multi-disciplinary research team from Germany and India. Extracts of the research findings that
are of relevance to the south Chennai Flood Plain and the Pallikaranai Marsh are being
presented in the following sections.

The methodological framework adopted for this long term study depicted in Fig 2

Fig 2: The methodological framework for the


interdisciplinary study on flooding patterns in south
Chennai

Note: the use of qualitative and quantitative methods across different spatial and temporal scales
The results of the study are summarized in the following schematic diagram, which clearly
indicates that the degradation of the Pallikaranai Marsh and the south Chennai Floodplain is the
primary driver for the floods in the landscape. Further, this degradation seems to be typified by
poor handling and disposal of Municipal Solid Waste through landfills within wetlands, ill planned
storm water drains, unregulated construction activity and the absence of a singular coordinating
agency.

Picture 3: Summary of findings – flood perception and


management.

It is however rather interesting to note that water logging of the south Chennai Floodplain was of
local relevance, historically. The seasonal flushing and retention of water (which was of rather
low intensity) enabled three primary livelihoods in the landscape viz. cultivation of paddy and
green leafy vegetables, availability of fodder for the livestock and fishing. This is evidenced by
the fact that there were no dug out wells in the landscape until the last four decades as also the
presence of a salt tolerant variety of paddy viz. Oryza rufipogon which had until 2002 been
reported only from the state of Orissa and West Bengal.
While the aforesaid livelihood options are of little relevance currently, the opportunity provided
through the water holding capacity of the marsh, much of which is collected from the overrun of
the wetlands of south Chennai cannot be discounted. For instance, if the overall extent of the
marsh, as it is available on date, is considered to be around 900 ha, the surface area would
account for 9 million square meters. If this surface could accommodate a minimum average of 1m
of water, the volume of water that the marsh can potentially hold/drain can be estimated as 9
million cubic meters (9 million tons of standing water).

However, if the marsh continues to be degraded and converted to terrestrial lands, not only does
the water holding capacity of the marsh severely curtailed (a projection of 1/3rd loss of area by
2015), but the continued inflow of more or less the same quantum of water would cause flooding
of the residential and commercial spaces within the landscape.
Map 2: a scenario of water retention capacity of the
Pallikaranai Marsh for the time period 2001 to 2015
6. Current status of the Pallikaranai Marsh

If the year 1965 is considered as a reference point, the last 50 years has led to a 90 percent
habitat loss of the Pallikaranai Marsh (a large portion of the marsh falls within the survey numbers
657 and 658). Within this loss, three broad patterns can be discerned; the first where large tracts
of the marsh especially those along Thoraipakkam, Pallikaranai and Perungudi have been
reclaimed into terrestrial habitats and converted into residential colonies. The second loss is
characterized by habitat fragmentation wherein roads, infrastructure, municipal landfills, sewage
treatment facilities etc have fragmented the marsh into smaller portions and grossly impacted the
natural drainage pattern. The third is a direct consequence of the first two, as also the
unscientific manner of addressing flood control, wherein large tracts of the marsh have been
invaded by invasive species of plants notably Prosopis juliflora and Water Hyacinth. The
following series of figures and tables provide further details on these aspects:

Fig 4 Fig 5

Land use and land cover change around the


marshland 1965 (Corona) to 2006 (Quickbird -
bandcombination 421)
Table 2: Analysis of changes in the area and
perimeter of the Pallikaranai marsh since 2003@

Segment of the Year Area (ha) Perimeter (km) Edge


marsh development

Municipal Landfill 2003 50.25* 5.785 2.30

2005 57.54 6.046 2.24

Area impacted by 2003 58.75*


garbage/sewage
2005 132.25

Northern 2003 227.00 12.11 2.26


segment#
2005 150.56 7.6 1.74

Southern 2003 284.00 9.327 1.56


segment
2005 279.65 11.8 1.99

Total 2003 620.00 c. 13.0 –

2005 620.00 c. 13.0 –

Edge development is calculated as the deviation of boundary/perimeter of the segment/polygon


from the circumference of a circle that has the same area/extent. It is calculated as p/2 (3.14A);
where p is the perimeter of the segment/ polygon in metres, A the area of the segment/polygon in
square metres (1 ha = 10,000 sq. m); 3.14 = p.

*50.25 + 58.75 = 109 ha recommended as the ‘critical zone’.

# excludes garbage dump and the impacted area.

@The 2003 map was based on details provided by IRS ID PAN + LISS III (March 2001), GPS
Field Survey by NIOT (February 2003) and Survey of India toposheet of 1972.
Table 3: Change matrix of land use/cover in and
around Pallikaranai Marsh (ha) highlighting
subcategories, Oct. 2001- Oct. 2008

Land use/ R IND LiT IU WD PL WL OW C 2001

cover (ha)

R 3444,2 23,4 47,3 1,5 - 9,1 - - 2,4 3527,9

IND - 95,9 - - - - - - - 95,9

LiT 28,9 167,5 4,6 71,3 - - 11,3 0,4 - 284,0

IU - - - 97,6 - - - - - 97,6

WD - - - - 64,5 - - - - 64,5

BL 526,1 7,5 57,9 8,3 - 576,1 36,1 10,3 1,9 1224,2

WL 288,2 23,3 267,3 7,3 1,0 31,1 412,6 12,2 2,4 1045,3

OW 37,5 5,6 5,3 22,0 12,4 17,6 217,7 447,7 0,8 766,5

C 443,7 19,0 75,5 19,1 - 215,3 0,0 20,4 67,7 860,7

2008 (ha) 4768,6 342,1 457,6 227,4 77,9 849,0 677,6 491,0 75,3 7966,5

R, Residential land; LiT, Land in Transition(Landfill/Construction sites); IU, Infrastructure and Utilities; WD, Waste
Disposal; PL, Pasture Land; WL, Wetland; OW, Open Water (including Tanks, Buckingham canal and Okkyiam Maduvu);
C, Cultivations; IND, Industries (IT, Industry/ Commercial

On April 9, 2007, 317 ha on the southern side of the Pallikaranai Marsh was declared as a
Reserved Land under the Forest (Conservation) Act of 1980 and brought under the jurisdiction of
the District Forest Officer – Kanchipuram. The current land use and land cover change of the
Pallikaranai Marsh along with the area that comprises the Reserved Land and Depth of Water at
select points within the marsh are depicted in the following map.
Map 3: Land Use –Land Cover Change in and around
Pallikaranai Marsh (2008-2010)
7. Adaptive Management Plan for the Protection and
Conservation of the Pallikaranai Marsh

A flexible, inclusive and knowledge based approach, which can be broadly designated as the
‘Adaptive Management Plan for the Conservation of Pallikaranai Marsh’ is being recommended
for the protection and conservation of Pallikaranai Marsh in specific and the south Chennai Flood
Plain in general. This plan accords equal consideration to people and nature, and in a manner is
a reconciliation of conservation and development goals. The Adaptive Management Plan has
been amongst others, been advocated by Prof Madhav Gadgil, member of the National Advisory
Committee of the Government of India in many of the initiatives in the Western Ghats. (see
Annexure 2).

The guiding principle of this plan is hence:

The ecology of Pallikaranai Marsh is sustained by the seasonal hydrology in general and the
mixing of sea and freshwater in particular. As is well-known, freshwater wetlands that are in the
stage of marshes are unstable as they eventually transform to grasslands and then to scrub and
forests due to the semi-aquatic and terrestrial plants that over-run the habitat. It is only the mixing
of seawater that sustains marshes as very few plants are adapted to living in saltwater systems
and as they cannot survive elsewhere have evolved ‘life-styles’ that mutually sustain the
ecosystem and the living communities of plants and animals that depend on them. In other words,
the freshwater-salt marsh ecosystem is one that is delicately balanced in nature and is sustained
by a set of equally fragile ecological communities. It is hence imperative that while the
Pallikaranai Marsh is conserved in totality, the critical link to the Buckingham Canal and the Bay
of Bengal through the Okkiyam Madavu needs to be strongly protected as well. It is also
important that the ecosystem services provided by the marsh is recognized and accorded its due;
with no further resident human foot print be allowed within the marsh (this includes staff quarters,
offices, inspection chambers, ware houses, garages etc).

One of the key inputs essential for the development of the plan is the baseline data on the
system. It is quite evident that long term research data on many aspects of the marsh is
available; and with further studies this could evolve into one of the most comprehensive data
bases on natural systems anywhere in the world.
Based on the analysis of this compendium of data, the following components emerge as being
critical to the protection and conservation of the Pallikaranai Marsh. The approximate financial
outlay required for this is also indicated which has been estimated based on experiences from
other states / projects:

1. Establishment of a Coordinating Agency

1.1 An umbrella agency

Establishing a singular coordinating agency to overcome the lacuna of multiple and


overlapping ownership /custodianship as well as mandates and functioning (see
Annexure1 ) would facilitate an integrated approach of protecting and conserving
Pallikarnai Marsh. The absence of such an agency contributes to a rather fragmented
approach of prioritisaiton and land use. For instance, the management of water bodies is
often under the purview of two state departments’ viz. Public Works and Forests. In
addition to the fact that the two departments have rather distinct and parallel mandates,
there is limited or negligible expertise of managing wetlands. The 11 Bird sanctuaries of
the state bear testimony to this fact.

1.2 Multi-stakeholder engagement

Further, in view of the fact that there are many title holders/custodians, largely
government departments and agencies, of the marsh, as also the fact that further
accession of the marsh to the Forest Department is not favoured (which would essentially
entail a inviolate management of the marsh), the presence of a coordinating agency
seems ideal.

1.3 Independent functioning

This agency, whose constitution, authority and structure can be evolved, needs to be
strongly supported with a scientific entity or group with proven, credible expertise in
wetland conservation. It also needs to be supported with entities or groups that facilitate
the involvement of the stakeholders – viz. resident welfare organisations, corporate
bodies, infrastructure development bodies, educational institutions etc. Ideally, the
agency could be headed by an independent chairperson (as in the case of similar
mechanisms that have been created elsewhere in the country at the state / central level.
Examples include the Gujarat Ecological Society, State Biodiversity Board of Kerala etc)
State
Independent
departments
Monitoring Group
of Coordinating
Agency
Department
Environmentof Expert
Revenue and
and Forests Support
Group
Land
Administration Action
District Pathway
Monitorin
Collectorate g
Chennai Pathway
Metropolitan Implementati
on Team
Development
Authority
Chennai
Corporation

State
department for

Water and
Resident
sewage
Welfare

Organisatio
ns
Corporate
bodies

The financial outlay required to enable this component is estimated as Rs 1.0 crore
2. Preparation of a Detailed Management Plan

2.1 The Coordinating agency should develop a Detailed Management Plan (that is
flexible and adaptive) with well defined and tangible points of action and outputs. Major
components of intervention are discussed in the following points;

2.2 On ground demarcation of the marsh

On ground restoration work needs to begin with the survey and demarcation of the
marsh, identifying and erecting boundary stones. This is critical given the fact that the
area is a marsh and hence can be surveyed only during the dry season. A digitized map
of the landscape could then be developed and used for implementing and monitoring
future interventions. This exercise would ensure that encroachments are identified and
appropriate action is taken.

2.3 Hydro-ecological assessment

The first point of intervention should aim at protecting the ecological integrity of the
marsh, as detailed in the guiding principle. This entails that a hydro-ecological
assessment of the marsh is undertaken, with specific reference to precipitation rates and
patterns; quantum of inflow, water recharge, drainage patterns etc. so that appropriate
interventions and structures could be visualized and implemented.

2.4 Sedimentation studies

The assessment also needs to result in a sediment map of the marsh, based on vertical
profiling (for depths of >100 m) that will result in reliable data

2.5 Pollution Assessment (Air, Water and Soil)

The assessment should also include aspects of contamination (organic and chemical)
including presence and spatial distribution of pollutants. This assessment should also
serve as a pointer to potential remedial measures.

2.6 Biodiversity Assessment

A biodiversity assessment focusing on lower vertebrates and invertebrates needs to be


undertaken, so that bio indicators for monitoring the restoration are identified.

2.7 Development of habitat zonation maps

A habitat zonation map needs to be evolved to understand and develop zone specific
interventions. For example, certain portions of the marsh may have to be given greater
attention in view of the higher levels of pollutants or in some portions of the marsh, a
forced change of habitat may be essential. In essence, some parts of the marsh may
have to protected, while others may have to be restored or conserved.

2.8 Two factors that have largely contributed to the decimation of the marsh are the
landfill (of the Chennai Corporation) and the Sewage Disposal Facility of the CMSWB.
While the landfill is meant to handle the solid waste that is generated by south Chennai,
and some of the Panchayats in Kanchipuram district, the Sewage Disposal facility
handles South Chennai and Alandur Municipality. Both the facilities have been under the
scanner and a detailed discussion on the in effective functioning of these systems has
been elaborated by the High Level Committee in 2009.

2.9 Evolving sustainable solid waste management

The issue of improper handling of solid waste and sewage is global. When perceived as
a problem that has long term and multifarious negative impacts, the issue has been
handled rather successfully in many cities of the developing world. In Phillipines, for
instance, a landfill was converted into an organic farm. In the Sunderbans, erstwhile
landfills are being promoted as floriculture farms.

2.10 Streamlining Sewage Disposal

The existing sewage treatment and disposal facility for South Chennai is located on the
immediate periphery and within the Pallikaranai Marsh, A lesser known fact is that the
large scale sewage treatment facility of the Alandur municipality is also located in the
premises. It has been established by a number of studies and the High Level Committee
on Pallikaranai Marsh that the facility is not only inadequate, but is also functioning in an
ad hoc manner with improper procedures of discharge.

2.11 Eco-legislations

Such plans need to be strengthened by strong legislative steps. For instance, source
segregation of solid waste needs to be made mandatory and decentralized. Appropriate
structures (such as dryers and gasifiers) need to be erected at the level of
neighbourhoods or transfer stations. Composting needs to be perceived as an
economical viable enterprise and launched.

The financial outlay estimated for enabling Component 2 is approximately Rs. 2.4 crore.

3. Awareness Generation, Nature based Learning, Recreation and Capacity Building

3,1 Wetland Centre


The Pallikaranai Marsh has evoked unprecedented interest amongst students. There are
about 40-45 studies on various aspects of the marsh by national and international
institutions (for instance, the Oxford University, University of Freiburg, NORAD, School of
Planning and Architechture). This interest offers an opportunity for establishing the
country’s first dedicated wetland centre for learning and capacity building in wetland
management.

3.2 Nature based Learning and Recreation

In view of the biodiversity that the marsh harbours, there is an opportunity to include
nature based learning in the wetland centre. A well designed interpretation (that is fluid in
design and include elements such as walk bridges and pathways) centre could be also
considered for the marsh. Elements that facilitate interactive learning such as digital
boards, nature based games, depictive murals, walks facilitated through extended
viewing decks and towers, viewing telescopes, aquaria, night-vision cameras and camera
traps could be installed to evolve the centre into a hub where nature based awareness
could be imparted in an inclusive manner.

3.3 Development of resource compendium

One of the oft stated lacunae in India on nature based learning initiatives is the absence
of a dedicated and sustained interactive programme on nature. That this is a specialized
sphere of activity that calls for experts in pedagogy, ecology and visual communication
needs to be factored into the planning and implementation aspects of the Pallikaranai
Wetland Centre.

3.4 Eco livelihoods

One of the means by which continued engagement of stakeholders is enabled is through


active involvement as nature guides, patrol groups and development of related
livelihoods.

3.5 Participatory Monitoring Mechanism

The use of technology, in view of the proximity to the IT Corridor and resident
Companies, for monitoring various aspects of the marsh, including bird watching, is
recommended. This would also ensure that the human foot print is restricted to the
periphery of the marsh.

3.6 Ramsar Site Nomination


The Pallikaranai Marsh, by the virtue of its bird, fish and amphibian diversity is an ideal
candidate for declaration as a Ramsar Site, under the Ramsar Convention of which India
is a signatory. This is a legally binding mechanism for the protection of important
wetlands by the national governments. A wetland so notified not only enjoys a protected
status, but is treated as a national asset and specific charters for the protection;
conservation and promotion of the wetland are evolved. Notable examples of such sites
in India include the Wular Lake and the Chilka Complex in Orissa, and Pallikaranai Marsh
if brought under the network of Ramsar sites would be the first site for Tamil Nadu, as
well as the first Marsh for peninsular India. The fact that Pallikaranai Marsh supports
over 100 species of birds, of which 5 are in the endangered list for Indian Birds as well as
a number of fishes and amphibians renders it as a potential candidate for Ramsar
Convention.

The financial outlay for Component 3 would be Rs. 6.0 crore.


Annexures

Annexure 1
Annexure 2

In fact, the emerging scientific understanding of complex systems tells us


that a centralized, inflexible approach to management of living resources
cannot be expected to work. The history of the wetland of Keoladev Ghana at
Bharatpur in Rajasthan, home to numerous species of resident and migratory
water birds illustrates this very well. The well-known ornithologist, Dr Salim
Ali and his co-workers have spent decades studying this ecosystem. As a
result of this work, Dr Salim Ali was convinced that the ecosystem would
benefit as a water bird habitat by the exclusion of buffalo grazing.
Government accepted this recommendation, and, with the constitution of a
National Park in 1982, all grazing was banned. The result was a complete
surprise. In the absence of buffaloes, a grass, Paspalum grew unchecked and
choked the wetland, rendering it a far poorer habitat for the water birds.

Scientists therefore advocate that ecosystem management must be flexible


and at all times ready to make adjustments on the basis of continual
monitoring of on-going changes. In contrast, the Government authorities
made a rigid decision to permanently ban all grazing and minor forest
produce collection from Keoladev Ghana, and having once committed
themselves have felt obliged to continue the ban, even though it has become
clear that buffalo grazing, in fact, helps enhance habitat quality for the water
birds. The emerging scientific philosophy therefore is to shift from such an
inflexible system involving uniform prescriptions to a regime embodying
systematic experimentation with more fine tuned prescriptions. Under such a
regime, stoppage of grazing would have been tried out in one portion of the
wetland, the effects monitored and the ban on grazing either extended or
withdrawn depending on the consequences observed. This would be a
flexible, knowledge based approach, a system of “adaptive management”
appropriate to the new information age.

Madhav Gadgil, 2005 in his preamble to the Peoples’ Biodiversity Register


for enabling the Biodiversity Act and Rules (2002)

Acknowledgements

With Inputs from Jayshree Vencatesan Ranjit Daniels, Axel Drescher, Rudiger Glaser, Constanze
Pfeiffer, Marco Lechner, Johann Apfelbacher, N. Muthu Karthick, C Arivazhagan, G Das, Anu
Priya and Tahir Zoheb