The population of Cheyyur are engaged in a plethora of livelihood practices ranging from marine and inland fishing to agriculture and salt pan work. The economic significance of the area extends beyond livelihood practices as the area has also been declared a significant tourism area by the Tamil Nadu Tourism Department.
The proposed port site is located in between two fishing hamlets – Panaiyur Periakuppam and Panaiyur Chinnakuppam. The economy of both hamlets is entirely dependant on fishing and allied activities. The coastal waters around these hamlets yield a significant catch to the village residents and seasonal change brings a significant variation in species caught. CEM conducted three beach landing surveys during separate seasons and recorded a list of species caught along with other data such as gear used by fishermen, details of fishing grounds and seasonal conditions. The reports are downloadable below.
The Odiyur lagoon, a massive lake located to the west of the East Coast Road, starting from the north-west periphery of the proposed plant site is also an important livelihood source for inland fishermen. Rahul Muralidharan, an independent researcher assisting Community Environment Monitoring conducted a survey enumerating the resource users of Odiyur Lagoon. The report is downloadable below.
The Tamil Nadu Tourism Department has declared the entire stretch between Marakkanam and Mahaballipuram as a tourism area. Understandably so, this picturesque stretch consists of white sand beaches, coastal vegetation, placid lagoons and water bodies, and much coveted bird life for enthusiasts. In fact, during the proposal stages of the project, Paramankeni village to the south of Panaiyur had orginally been chosen as the site for the port, but the tourism department had expressed concerns as the site had been declared a tourism area, and moreover due to its ecological sensitivity highlighted by the presence of sand dunes. Panaiyur village was also rejected on similar grounds. However, after many deliberations between the proponent and regulatory authorities, which remain dubious in nature, Panaiyur village was chosen nonetheless, even though the TNSCZMA had asked the representatives of these authorities to take into consideration the presence of sand dunes and the impact on the tourism corridor.
80% of the land to be acquired for the project is agricultural land. Paddy is the primary crop cultivated here. This fertile land is irrigated by an ancient system of eris or man-made irrigation tanks, some dating as far back as the 8th century AD. (For more information on the hydrology of the area visit the Hydrology section). Despite this, the EIA reports prepared by the project proponent and its consultants claim that the project is to come up on barren, non-agricultural land.
Located in Marakkanam, approximately 16 km south of the proposed project site are the Marakkanam salt pans. Incidentally, the salt pan workers led a protest against the very same project when it was originally set to come up in 1999 as a 1000 MW plant, and successfully delayed the project until now.