Climate Change, Environmental Activism, and the Arts in South India

Vol. 7, núm. 1, 2019

Por: Matthew Harp Allen

In November 2015 the city of Chennai was the site of massive flooding. While many government ministers and politicians attributed the floods simply to an exceptionally heavy monsoon, environmental activists laid the blame on almost a half century of gradual encroachment on riverine environments by industrial concerns. Corporations built industrial plants in the flood plains of the Kosasthalaiyar River and Ennore Creek (North Chennai), using the waterways as a dumping ground for fly ash and other pollutants. The ability of the rivers to provide an outlet for rain waters to the sea over time diminished to zero. In the floods’ aftermath, local artist-activists made common cause with several villages of fisherpeople whose livelihood was severely compromised due to the degradation of the coastal waterways. They agitated for desilting the creek and rigorous enforcement of laws nominally protecting lands which by tradition fall under a centuries-old Tamil concept, “poromboke”. The essay profiles the history of the 2015 floods and evaluates the role played by music and musicians in the ongoing fight to save Chennai’s rivers, within the context of creating a healthy and just society.

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