Seeking urgent action against those encroaching water bodies and endangering life of citizens in the city, the Madras High Court has directed the Tamil Nadu government to constitute within 15 days an advisory committee under the state Disaster Management Act. A bench comprising Chief Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Justice R Mahadevan gave the direction on Thursday last during the hearing of a batch of petitions which found fault with the government over release of excess water from Chembarmakkam Reservoir during December last which allegedly led to the deluge in the city and suburbs.
Earlier, the court perused the affidavits filed by the Secretaries of the state Revenue department and Public Works Department with regard to encroachments and disaster management.
“The affidavit on behalf of the Public Works Department leaves us with no doubt that in so far as the removal of encroachment is concerned, nothing has happened from May onwards as we suspected,” the bench said. Referring to removal of encroachments in the river banks like Adyar and Coovum here, it said “A closed issue is sought to be addressed by stating that where the encroachments were removed from January to March 2016, follow up works has been completed or is in progress, like demolition, fencing, canal widening etc.”
It had been stated that encroachers were being ‘convinced’ to move from the place in the same manner with benefits as earlier encroachments had been removed.
“We believe that enough convincing has been done and the time has come for implementation, as all the encroachers have to be treated on par and cannot seek prolonged right of occupying the encroached area, which endangers the citizens, including themselves and creates circumstances where flooding takes place,” the bench said.
Referring to the Revenue department’s affidavit, the court noted that from 2010 till 2016 there was really no progress on the issue of State Disaster Management Planning. When state Advocate General R Muthukumaraswamy mentioned that advice had been obtained for constitution of the advisory committee from the state disaster management authority and National Institute of Disaster Management, the bench said “We are of the view that in the given situation we are faced with, it becomes necessary to constitute an Advisory Committee under section 17 of the Disaster Management Act”.
The committee would not only give the benefit of experts’ view but also facilitate inputs to be taken from different sources. Such a committee may thus be constituted within 15 days and petitioners may give their inputs to it, it said. The bench also made it clear that any writ petition in connection with the removal of encroachments in the Buckingham Canal in the city shall also be listed before it only.