Just north of the huge Indian city of Chennai is series of wetlands, estuaries and fishing villages that the Adani Group plans to transform into a massive port complex. A spirited campaign by fishing communities and other locals gained so much traction that the DMK’s candidate for Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu was elected to power on a platform of cancelling the project. In the first session of the state assembly, the new Chief Minister, M.K. Stalin, reassured people on the floor of the assembly that his pre-election pledge would be fulfilled.
This was great news for the people of Ennore, Kattupalli and Pulicat. Nevertheless, they have not given up their efforts to protect their local environment and livelihoods. On 16 October 2021, UN food day, the women of one of the districts that would be affected by the Adani megaport project will hold a traditional Tamil seafood feast to highlight the importance of the local ecosystem.
Here is their invitation to Chief Minister Stalin:
Respected Chief Minister,
We are women from Pazhaverkadu, Thiruvallur district. On behalf of our people, we invite you and your family to a seafood feast in our village on 16 October 2021 – the UN World Food Day. Fish is among the healthiest of foods, and Pazhaverkadu is famous for its tasty, wholesome and healthy seafood. We hope you will take us up on our invitation and sample the traditional recipes prepared using the fish of the season.
As women, we do a lot more than just cook fish – from catching fish, to curing it, auctioning and marketing it and adding value to the fish catch in myriad ways, women are the backbone of the fisheries economy of the region. That said, food is important. In food, there is tradition and the hand-me-down wisdom of our women ancestors.
Our invitation to you is our way of wishing you good health and a long life and thanking you for reassuring us in the beginning of this assembly session that you will fulfil your election promises. We are sure you recall the threat to our lives, living spaces and livelihoods posed by the megaport proposed by Adani. Your promise means a lot to us.
Between the sea and the Pazhaverkadu lagoon, we are blessed with year-round fishing, and fish-consumers with year-round availability of fish. The nearshore area that Adani wishes to convert into land by dumping earth into the sea is also one of the most productive areas in the sea. Fish are not found everywhere at sea. The best places to find them are in places where the ocean floor has Paar (rocks/reefs) or Seru (mud). These are the best fishing grounds. The portion of the sea where Adani’s port is proposed has six seru paguthi (where ocean floor is muddy). These seru are so important to our livelihoods that we have given each one its own name – Alamaram seru, lock seru, kalanji seru, kalanji koda seru, koda seru. These are the grounds where the kanankeluthi, mulima, panna, kala, kadal kezhangan, udupathi, navarai, sankara, semakkera, vellra and kadal nandu graze.
The fish, and the seas and the lagoon that they come from may be the same, but our recipes are as rich and diverse as tamil society. Hindu, muslim, christian – each of us that calls Pazhaverkadu our home has our own specialities and signature recipes. We believe our multicultural food and our peaceful seaside location will please your palate and relax your mind.
We do not wish to use our invitation to a feast as a time to speak about the dangers of the proposed port. Rather we wish you to come to our village to taste the food to understand the correctness of your promise to cancel the port.
We promise that amongst us, you will experience a slice of Tamil Nadu that you will forever cherish.
With love and respect,
(Women of Pazhaverkadu)