In a new report, an amicus curiae appointed by the Madras High Court has found that more than 100 acres of land in the Pallikaranai marshland area has been encroached upon by the central government institutions, IT companies, and other residential buildings.
The HC initiated the suo motu PIL after the Supreme Court directed all high courts in the country to safeguard wetlands. According to the report submitted by senior counsel P S Raman, the wetland, which had extended more than 50 sq km about 30 years ago, reduced to 5.99 sq km in 2007 and has further reduced to 3.17 sq km (793 acres) at present.
“From an original expansion of approximately 5,500 hectares (recorded in the year 1965), this marshland has shrunk to about 600 hectares as of 2013, owing to large-scale development of residential areas, IT parks, institutions of higher education and related infrastructure, over the last few decades,” the report stated.
It further added the presence of two garbage dump yards maintained by the Chennai Corporation and Alandur Municipal Corporation in the northern and eastern sides affected the ecological landscape.
“Several ecological experts have recommended that such a dump yard be moved at the earliest as it is in the current ecological condition in the Pallikaranai Marsh emits more carbon dioxide and methane than it absorbs,” the report said.
The amicus team submitted that Pallikaranai marshland has been encroached by central government buildings like Mass Rapid Transit System (MRTS), National Institute of Ocean Technology, (NIOT), Centre for Wind Energy (C-WET), IT companies and residential complexes.
It recommended the government work on a priority basis towards shifting the dump yard to another location.
Speaking to Indianexpress.com, social activist Nithyanand Jayaraman said: “It’s not just a few residential complexes, the entire industrial special sectors like ELCOT SEZ in Shollinganallur comes under the marshland. I welcome the line of inquiry taken by the Madras High Court, we hope that these encroachments will be removed; the encroachers punished and the water body is restored. The ownership does not matter; I can build anything around the stream but not on the stream, that is the law.”
Environmentalist Dr. Lal Mohan echoed similar thoughts. “The water-bodies shouldn’t be disturbed, they are precious. Some control has to be there, this Pallikaranai wetland is one amongst the 115 identified wetlands under the National Wetlands Conservation Programme. In other parts of Tamil Nadu, we have stopped several constructions on the wetland. We have already damaged this wetland; these lands are to be preserved for future generations. No building should be allowed on this land,” he said.
Senior lawyer Raman also urged the Tamil Nadu Forest Department to intervene and set-up an anti-poaching team in the wetland. “There have been a few records of wetland bird poaching in Chennai, in this regard, a vigilant forest department task force for anti-poaching in Pallikaranai marshland, quick response team in the case of reporting and prosecution of the offenders under the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 is Imperative,” his report said.
The division bench comprising Justices S Manikumar and Subramonium Prasad ordered the Tamil Nadu government to file its response by Wednesday, August 21.