Imagine a well-known classical musician singing to save the environment. Actually, there’s no need to imagine.

Chennai Poromboke Paadal, a song about the city’s Ennore Creek, came to life as a 10,000-word essay on the loss of “poromboke” areas and communities in Tamil Nadu’s Capital city. “Poromboke is an old Tamil word meaning shared-use community resources like waterbodies, seashore and grazing lands that are not assessed for tax purposes. Today, it has become a bad word used to describe worthless people or places,” says the text describing the video.

It is precisely this word that the rest of the song attempts to reclaim, making a case for Chennai’s environmental heritage at Ennore Creek, and the surrounding wetlands, which are being ravaged by pollution and wanton development.

Journalist and social activist Nityanand Jayaram, the author of the essay, sent his piece to singer-songwriter Kaber Vasuki, from Tamil pop-rock band Kurangan, who converted it into lyrics for a sing – which was then performed by classical musician TM Krishna, accompanied by violinist HN Bhaskar, Praveen Sparsh on the mridangam, and BS Purushottam on the kanjira.

“Poromboke is not for you, nor is it for me. It is for the community, and it is for the city. It is for the earth,” sings TM Krishna in this music video shot by Rathindran R Prasad (of Kodaikanal Won’t fame), which uses visuals of Chennai’s Ennore Creek as its backdrop. The Magasaysay award winner sings against a rapidly changing background that depict the environmental degradation of the site.

The video was published by the Vettiver Collective, and is accompanied by a petition directed to the National Green Tribunal to save the creek. The running theme through the song and the video is perfectly embodied in the line: “It was not the river that chose to flow through the cities, rather it was the cities that chose to grow around the rivers”.