“It flowed for 7 to 8 months till 1965 and now for 3 to 4 months”

Court orders alone cannot prevent environmental degradation unless they are coupled with an emergence of a mass movement for educating the people on the need to leave behind a green planet for posterity, said D. Hariparanthaman, Judge, Madras High Court, here on Wednesday.

Delivering presidential address at a seminar organised by Madras High Court Bench Advocates Association (MBHAA) on ‘Conserving River Vaigai,' the judge said that lack of environmental education was one of the prime reasons behind the apathy faced by nature at present.

The judge appreciated MBHAA for organising a seminar aimed at a social cause. He listed a number of cases in which the Supreme Court had taken proactive steps to safeguard the environment besides formulating new concepts, principles and doctrines such as ‘polluters must pay.'

C.P. Rajkumar, a doctor by profession and also an environmentalist associated with Vaigai Association for Nature and Mountain Ranges (VANAM), a small time private organisation based in Theni district, was the resource person for the seminar.

According to him, the Vaigai dam was one of the prime sources of water for people living in Madurai, Dindigul, Theni, Sivaganga and Ramanathapuram districts. It was fed by water diverted from Periyar dam and River Vaigai which originated in the catchment areas at Meghamalai in the Western Ghats.

“While the water from Periyar dam accounted for 85 per cent, only 15 per cent was supplied by the Vaigai. In case in the future, the Periyar dam had to be decommissioned, then the people of five districts would have to depend only on 15 per cent of water received from the Vaigai,” he cautioned.

Stating that Vaigai is dying slowly but surely every day, he pointed out that the river which was flowing for seven to eight months a year till1965 was at present flowing only for three to four months. He attributed a number of reasons for such a pitiable situation including large scale encroachments upon the Meghamalai.

He said that only 269 sq.km. had been declared as Meghamalai Wildlife Sanctuary as of now and a notification on extending the sanctuary to 628 sq.km. was not issued on April 16 as expected. Extending the sanctuary would put an end to poaching and consequently preserve the forest area, he added.

Meghamalai was home to some of the rarest of animals, including the Lion Tailed Macaque, Nilgiri Tahr and Flying Squirrel, Dr. Rajkumar said and stressed the need for appointing an Indian Forest Service officer to administer the hills rather than deputing a promotee State Service officer.

Claiming that there had been no direct recruitment to the post of Rangers in the Forest Department in the last twenty years, he said that it was one of the most neglected departments.

It required young and energetic officers who could dedicate themselves to the cause of preservation of nature.

“Unless Meghamalai is protected, there won't be any water in the Vaigai which is already in the ‘Intensive Care Unit.' So, it all depends on us as to whether we are going to let it die or wake up from our slumber and take some proactive steps to save the pristine forests along with their flora and fauna,” he concluded.