Above: Watch "Chennai Poromboke Paadal," a video conceived by our speaker Nityanand Jayaraman that laments the damage caused by development and industrial pollution to the creek and estuary.


Chennai, India-based environmental activist Nityanand Jayaraman investigates and reports on corporate abuses of environment and human rights. In his lecture on April 10, 2019, he will discuss shared-use and communally owned resources known as the poromoboke and the blatant encroachment on the poromboke for building construction and garbage dumping. 

Poromboke is a Tamil word meaning shared-use and communally owned resources like bodies of water, seashores and grazing lands. Today, it has a negative connotation and is used to describe worthless people or places. This erosion in meaning is the result of a property-making agenda of the state that views open, unbuilt and unbuildable spaces as wasteland. But poromboke commons are layered with multiple land uses, cultures and economies. Far from being worthless, poromboke spaces are the backbone of any economy, and the basis for the planet's resilience. India is witnessing a wave of protests against land acquisition for infrastructure projects that prioritize built infrastructure over unbuilt and open spaces. Surviving climate change is a fight to prevent degrading land-use change, and the re-orienting of values. The task then is a cultural one—of revalorizing the poromboke and changing our notions of value and worth with respect to places, economies, cultures and peoples.