The monument is to cover 8,551sqm in area and will have a 360m-long lattice bridge from the memorial on the sands of the Marina to the pen statue jutting into the Bay of Bengal. The statue will be about 42m tall. The meeting was held to discuss and get feedback from fishermen, environmentalists, scientists and public.
It turned political when DMK cadres began raising slogans and hurling abuses at anyone who objected to the project. On their part, members of the NTK, BJP and other parties shouted down those who supported the project.
Activist Mugilan said the environmental impact assessment report in Tamil was made available only on Tuesday morning, and the authorities did not find an alternate location for the memorial as suggested by the central government.
There was an uproar when NTK chief coordinator S Seeman said he would break the statue even if it was built. “It can be built anywhere, but not in the sea. It can be built at Arivalayam or any other place. About 13 fishermen villages will be impacted if it is constructed,” he said.
Prabhakaran from Poovulagin Nanbargal cited reports and said the coastline would be eroded by 100m in the next 20 years and such projects should not be allowed. Thirumurugan Gandhi of May 17 Movement said while the monument would be set up due to political will, measures should be taken to reduce the adverse environmental impact.
The meeting, held by the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board, under the district collector, began at 10.30am and lasted till 1.30pm. While about 25 speakers aired their views, about 1,500 people took part in the event. Many had been brought in hired MTC buses to attend the meeting, and were given food packets.
The fight over the Pen memorial spilled onto social media as well, with several political leaders issuing statements denouncing Seeman’s statement. T R B Raja, DMK’s IT wing secretary, said anyone who dared to touch the statue would not be spared.
TNPCB member secretary R Kannan said all views would be recorded and sent to the Union ministry of environment, forest and climate change. “The suggestions will be incorporated in the final environmental impact assessment report,” he added.