The Director of Fisheries has sent a proposal to National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD) for sanctioning funds to open the bar mouth at Pulicat lake permanently at an estimated cost of ₹27 crore, the Madras High Court has been told. A Bench of Justices Vineet Kothari and Krishnan Ramasamy were told by Additional Government Pleader J. Pothiraj that the Pulicat lake in Tiruvallur district was the second largest brackish water lagoon in the country spread over 760 sq.km.
The lake gets fed by River Arani which emanates in Andhra Pradesh and flows for about 66.40 km in Tamil Nadu before joining the Bay of Bengal.
The lake and its river basins were located in both the States and governed by the Inter State River Water Disputes Act of 1956.
The Pulicat lake acts as a buffer to retain accumulated flood water till it gets discharged into the sea during the monsoon period and cyclones. It, being an estuary, has a bar mouth which was nothing but a natural opening that helps in the flood water getting drained into the sea. During the post monsoon season, the bar mouth helps flow of lake water into the Bay of Bengal during low tide and the flow of sea water into the lake during high tides. Fishermen earn their livelihood by catching prawns, mullets, green crab, jelly fish and fin fish from the lake.
The bar mouth of the lake gets closed almost every year due to sediment drift, making it difficult for the fishermen to fish either at the lake or in the Bay of Bengal. The government had so far been spending money on temporary opening of the bar mouth and it was done last in December.
Hence, the Chief Minister on March 20 informed the Legislative Assembly that the bar mouth would be opened permanently at a cost of ₹27 crore. After that announcement, the bar mouth got closed completely once again by June this year.
In the meantime, the Director of Fisheries had forwarded a proposal for sanction of funds for the project which would require environmental clearance from multiple authorities, including those from the Central government, after conducting a public hearing, the AGP said.
After recording his submissions made in response to a Public Interest Litigation petition, the judges granted him two more weeks’ time to apprise them of the progress made by the Director of Fisheries in obtaining funds and environmental clearances.