The entire coast of Tamil Nadu shares common ecological characteristics. The coastal ecology in turn gives rise to a supporting ecosystem consisting of estuaries, lagoons and inland water bodies. In addition to this, the state houses a network of lakes and tanks which irrigate hundreds of thousands of hectares of land, rendering them extremely fertile for agriculture. Panaiyur Village where the Port for the Power Plant is to come up, possesses some of the hallmark features of the Coromandel Coast and Cheyyur and its entire surrounding area stands a prime representative of the ecology of low lying areas around Tamil Nadu.
Panaiyur Village is situated atop a massive sand dune complex. Dunes play a vital role in preventing intrusion of the sea into the mainland and fostering the growth of dune vegetation which prevent salt laden winds from tainting inland agriculture. The presence of sand dunes has been denied by the project proponent, while in reality the coal stockyard is to come up right on top of the dune complex. To counter these false claims and firmly establish the presence of sand dunes, the profile of the dunes was mapped in an exercise led by Dr. Naveen Namboothri, Marine Biologist, Dakshin Foundation, with the assistance of Community Environment Monitoring members and residents of Panaiyur Periakuppam. Download the full report here:
The port site is located in between the biologically productive Mudaliarkuppam and Alhambarai estuaries, with their respective mouths to the north and south of the proposed port site. The entire surrounding area is dotted with eris or man-made irrigation tanks which irrigate an area of more than 16,000 acres. (For more information on the hydrology of the area visit the Hydrology section)
To the north west of the project site is the Odiyur lagoon, a large water body visible to the west of the East Coast Road. The lagoon is a terminal for resident and migratory birds and is a source of livelihood for inland fishermen. Also within the project vicinity is the Yedayanthittu estuary approximately 4km south of the port site, and the Kaliveli Tank complex approximately 20km south. Both these sites are hotspots for bird life and are well known and frequently visited by the birdwatching community. The Kaliveli tank has been designated as one of the country’s Important Bird Areas (IBAs) by Birdlife International, Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), and the Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS). (Detailed reports on the various fauna of these areas can be downloaded from the Resources section).
The waters surrounding Panaiyur village yield a significant variety of commercial species. Three beach landing surveys were conducted by Community Environment Monitoring (CEM) at Panaiyur Periakuppam during separate seasons and the species caught were recorded along with other data such as gear used by the fisherman, details of fishing grounds and seasonal conditions. Over a hundred species were recorded over all three surveys.