Chennai oil spill: Despite promises, no compensation for thousands of families, allege residents

Last month, the government announced that 6,700 affected families will be compensated.

WrittenBy:Nithya Pandian& Nidharshana Raju
A picture of the Ennore oil spill in Chennai.

Residents of Tiruvottiyur’s wards four and six who claim to be affected by the oil spill caused by the Chennai Petroleum Corporation Limited in December have alleged that they were not considered for compensation. The ward councillors said the compensation assessment, undertaken by revenue officials, has overlooked thousands of affected families and businesses.

On December 23, the government had announced that 6,700 affected families from four wards of Ennore (1,4,6 and 7) who were affected by flood water as well as the oil spill will receive a compensation of Rs 7,500, in addition to Rs 6,000 promised by Chief Minister MK Stalin. 

M Samuel Diraviam, councillor of ward six, alleged that revenue department officials had identified only 2,850 families as beneficiaries for compensation although around 8,000 families in his ward were affected. “The assessment should have been the responsibility of zonal level officers because they are aware of the nagars and streets that were severely affected. This is not justifiable in any way,” Samuel told The News Minute

A resident of Raja Shanmugam Nagar in ward six, who has not been considered for the compensation, said, “We don’t know how they decided some areas were affected and others not. Along with other families, we have submitted a letter to the collector of Chennai district highlighting the inconsistencies in the assessment.” 

In the neighbouring Kalaignar Nagar, some residents got compensation while their neighbours did not, alleged the resident.

Councillor Jayaram of ward four also raised similar concerns. “There are some 300 families who suffered significant losses in Jai Bhim Nagar and TF Gopal Nagar due to flood water getting mixed with the oil spill. They haven’t been considered for compensation at all. The government needs to conduct a proper re-assessment,” he said. He also raised the issue of small businesses not having been considered in these assessments. 

“Fishers were definitely affected but there were other small businesses as well like tailoring units, powdering mills, etc. Why isn’t the government asking CPCL to pay for these losses as well?” he asked.

Residents are also of the view that the compensation announced doesn’t cover the losses that they have suffered. “People who work as food delivery agents have lost their two-wheelers and auto drivers have lost their vehicles. They have all spent thousands of rupees in repairing them. In addition to this, they lost furniture and household appliances. The government has, however, only given Rs 7,500, that too only to some families,” said Jayaram.

The News Minute reached out to Chennai district collector Rashmi Siddharth Zagade to understand the assessment process and how the compensatory amount was decided. However, she refused to comment on the issue.

The government had identified 2,301 families from ward one, who were primarily fishers. The compensation announced was Rs 12,500 and an additional Rs 10,000 for 787 damaged boats. 

But residents of the fishing hamlets who suffered losses alleged that they didn’t receive the amount. Kuppusamy from the Nettukuppam fishing hamlet in Ennore said he is yet to receive any compensation. Whatever the government has planned to provide would not compensate for the loss that has been incurred, he said.

He asserted that a fisherman whose boat was damaged must spend at least Rs 80,000 to get a second-hand boat. “The country-made fibre boat (locally known as Naatu Padagu) costs a minimum of Rs 1.5 lakh. The higher-end fibre boats which are used for fishing by the river cost Rs 4 lakh. What kind of a change would the compensation make,” he asked. 

Fishers also lost fishing nets (nool valai)  that cost over Rs 1 lakh. Fishers said even cheaper fishing nets cost Rs 60,000. “The cost of 300 metre nets used in river fishing are priced between Rs 12,000 to Rs 15,000,” he said. Affected fishers said they haven’t ventured into the sea since the last week of November, which has affected their livelihood.

This report was republished from The News Minute as part of The News Minute-Newslaundry alliance. It has been lightly edited for style and clarity. Read about our partnership here and become a TNM Member here.


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