On Campus

Fishermen, slum body at loggerheads over tsunami rehabilitation

Sarah Haefeez | Updated on March 12, 2018 Published on August 21, 2013

TNSCB houses at Nochikuppam, near Mylapore in Chennai. — M. Karunakaran

Almost 300 new houses out of 650 have been allotted to non-slum dwellers.

The fishing hamlet of Nochikuppam along the Marina beach in Chennai has been plagued by a slew of problems since the 2004 tsunami.

What is more, there seems to be no immediate solution to the impasse between the fishing community and the Tamil Nadu Slum Clearance Board over the issue of allotment of flats in the aftermath of the destruction of the fishermen’s homes due to the tsunami.

The State Emergency Tsunami Rehabilitation Programme (ETRP), with financial help from the World Bank, had set out to build over 7,000 flats to rehabilitate fishermen along the coast up to Srinivasapuram, one of the hamlets along the beach. After a long delay, officials began the process of building apartments for the enumerated beneficiaries. The first phase of construction was completed last year. However, while the flats constructed are ready, they have not been occupied yet. The apartments have not been occupied due to seemingly irreconcilable differences between the fishermen and the Slum Clearance Board. The impasse was responsible for the World Bank withdrawing from the ETRP in 2011.

While around 1,900 temporary shelters have been built, only 600 families have reportedly moved into them. Most of the fishermen are resisting the Board’s attempts to get them to relocate to the shelters so that it can begin construction of the remaining flats. “Almost 300 new houses out of the 650 built have been allotted to persons who are not slum dwellers and neither do they belong to the fishing community. In fact, they are not residents of Chennai but they come from places like Kanchipuram. We have reported these fraudulent irregularities in allotments to the Slum Board Chairman and the Police Commissioner in a written complaint, but nothing has come of it,” alleged K. Barathi, president of the South Indian Fishermen Welfare Association in Chennai.

R. Mohan, Executive Engineer at the Slum Clearance Board, however, counters this allegation saying that most of the fishermen are demanding accommodation for their extended families which has grown over the years. “The government cannot provide for so many people especially when they are being so greedy about government sops,” he added.

A. Srivatsan, architect and specialist in urban studies, sees the entire project as a “flawed” one. “The tenements were established in the early 1970s. So there has naturally been an organic expansion of the families since then. The fishermen are now demanding houses for their wards as well. They feel the process of enumeration based on the decades old records is unfairand they are refusing to accept the allotments,” he said.

Meanwhile, due to the impasse, those who seem to be suffering are the families living in dingy and cramped slums. Mounds of garbage accumulate in the area with no one to clear them. “Our children catch insect-borne diseases like dengue and malaria because we live in such unhygienic conditions. Our homes are too small for us. The roof leaks when it rains,” says 35-year-old R. Devi.

Barathi, however, feels that further talks with the authorities may yield results soon. He hopes the matter will be settled soon.

Published on August 21, 2013
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