There is a clear case for promoting eco-tourism in certain parts of the region.
To give a few examples, Karanai reserve forest is just 4 km from Navalur.
The Sonallur reserve forest may be only twice that distance away.
In the last week of March, Chennai District National Green Corps organised a field trip to the Nanmangalam reserve forest and Pallikaranai marsh for students.
On the Medavakkam-Mambakkam Road, there is the Madurapakkam reserve forest.
Old Mahabalipuram Road and surrounding areas have a glut of schools that come under streams that attach great importance to innovative teaching. Have these institutions considered teaching their students the concepts of botany, zoology, geography and ecology with their immediate environment as study aid? In other words, do they organise field trips in the region?
In the last week of March, Chennai District National Green Corps organised a field trip to the Nanmangalam reserve forest and Pallikaranai marsh for students. According to a press note, the students were drawn from government, corporation, aided and matriculation schools. The effort is indeed salutary. While admitting that both the Nanmangalam RF and Pallikaranai marsh have many lessons in natural science for students, it should be pointed out that there are other options that remain largely unexercised. Besides these usual suspects (Nanmangalam forest and Palliakaranai marsh), the region abounds in many reserve forests, hills and lakes, and with permission from the Forest Department and the Public Works Department, students could be taken on a tour to explore them. To give a few examples, Karanai reserve forest is just 4 km from Navalur. The Sonallur reserve forest may be only twice that distance away. On the Medavakkam-Mambakkam Road, there is the Madurapakkam reserve forest. Off the Vandalur Kelambakkam Road, there is a raft of reserve forests, including those in Mambakkam, Kumizhi and Othivakkam. One cannot even begin to count the number of lakes in the region. To give you an idea, on the 200-ft Thoraipakkam-Pallavaram Radial Road alone, there are three big lakes — Narayanapuram Eri, Keezhkattalai Eri and Pallavaram Periya Eri. The areas off the Tambaram Velachery Main Road are also lake-rich and the bigger waterbodies include Sembakkam, Chitlapakkam and Selaiyur lakes. Mambakkam-Medavakkam Main Road has the sprawling Perumbakkam and Sithalapakkam lakes.
Educative and instructive
Some of the afore-mentioned lakes are plagued by problems, and, therefore, exploring them could be as instructive as they are educative for students. It would open young eyes to the necessity of protecting these resources.
Residents’ associations across the region and IT companies should ensure a similar exposure for their members and employees. For, these two segments can work alongside government officials. They could serve as a monitoring group that reports activities that adversely impact these resources. In this region, intense human habitations are found cheek by jowl with lakes and green tracks, raising the possibility of man-nature conflict. Already, there are signs of this. The outer rims of many reserve forests are littered with waste, predominantly plastic waste. Gated communities in the OMR region are adopting best practices in waste management, and some of them have taken long strides towards going zero-waste. Can’t they sensitise residents of the hamlets and localities around these green tracks to dispose of waste responsibly? Residents welfare associations and IT companies can also engage in lake protection activities, expending their energy and resources specifically for those found nearby. If sewage is being let into any of them, they would report it. They could also assist in initiatives to de-silt and deepen these waterbodies.
Sense of ownership
The State agencies concerned should enable this process, which would entail providing those engaged in the work with something of a ‘volunteer permit’ card. That would be a giant step towards ensuring ownership of these resources. For residents and IT employees to feel emotionally drawn to this cause, they have to be first taken around these places and made to realise how valuable they are. For, one will protect what one values. And, one will value only that which one understands fully.
Now, let’s first deal with the question of value.
Besides their obvious benefits, the forests and waterbodies arrest uni-dimensional development. By acting as a green cover in the right places, they check the ‘concretisation’ of the region. There are signs that the people who live and work there already value them. To give an example, every weekend, many software professionals spend their leisure at the spit of a marsh, which is counted as a part of the Pallikaranai marsh and is located opposite the Sholinganallur IT/ITES Special Economic Zone, to watch its birdlife.
In several parts of the region, there have been cases of residents associations rising in protest when encroachments come up around a lake, garbage burned or sewage let into it.
The various stakeholders in the region — which we would hypothetically called the Greater IT Corridor that includes Old Mahabalipiuram Road, Tambaram-Velachery Main Road, Medavakkam-Mambakkam Main Road, Thoraipakkam-Pallavaram Radial Road and Vandalur-Kelambakkam Road — could be brought together to protect these resources and ensure balanced development in the region. There is a clear case for promoting eco-tourism in certain parts of the region.
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