Ruckus at Marina beach hearing on pen memorial for Ex-CM Karunanidhi

Political groups, environmentalist, and fisherman representatives assert that the project would harm the coastal ecosystem

Late Tamil Nadu Chief Minister and DMK supremo M Karunanidhi I Pic: Wikimedia Commons

The proposed construction of a monument for late Chief Minister M Karunanidhi at a public hearing led to chaos, with political party representatives and activists strongly opposing it, resulting in a heated argument between them and the DMK members.

The site chosen for the Rs 81 crore “Muthamizh Arignar Dr Kalaignar Pen Monument in Bay of Bengal” off the coast of Chennai’s famous Marina beach was opposed by Naam Tamilar Katchi chief coordinator Seeman, environmentalists, the BJP and fishermen representatives, who claimed that the project would affect the coastal ecosystem.

The Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board and Chennai district administration had to frequently appeal to the speakers to confine their speeches only to the project and avoid political rhetoric.

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Some of the representatives even faulted the government for identifying the project site in the sea. An activist Mugilan even went to the extent of staging a dharna against the project at Kalaivanar Arangam, here, the venue of the public hearing, and the police had to evict him.

Seeman’s opposition to the project was met with stern resistance from the DMK members gathered at the venue and an angry discussion ensued between those opposing the project and DMK functionaries who wanted the memorial to come up. The officials had to repeatedly appeal to the participants to maintain calm and convey their views in three minutes.

“We are not against the pen monument. Let the government have it at Anna Arivalayam (DMK State headquarters) or anywhere else but not in the sea by reclaiming land thereby endangering marine life,” Seeman later said.

Visitors to the monument are likely to dump food and other plastic waste into the sea and this would affect the marine life, he argued.

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Targeting the DMK ideology, Seeman told reporters, “Having a pen that doesn’t write or not used at all is rational thinking for the DMK. But it is superstitious for them when someone keeps a pen during Saraswathy puja.”

He wondered how the State government could mobilise Rs 81 crore for this project when it claimed paucity of funds to provide old age pension to beneficiaries. “This is unfair. I will demolish the pen monument if it is established in the sea,” Seeman said.

The Pen Monument is proposed to be placed in the Bay of Bengal at a distance of 360 m from the shoreline in CRZ-IV (A) area, as per section 4(ii) (j) of CRZ Notification amended on March 22, 2016 for construction of memorials / monuments and allied facilities by the State concerned.

The 383-page draft Rapid Environmental Impact Assessment (REIA) Report for the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) Clearance, for the proposed project says the site falls within CRZ IVA, CRZ IA, and CRZ II.

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The proposed monument requires CRZ clearance as it involves both onshore and offshore construction. It covers an area about 8551.13 sq m, the report says.

(With agency inputs)