The Public Works Department on Wednesday removed encroachments around Madambakkam Lake near Tambaram following a specific direction from the Madras High Court.

PWD officials, along with those from the Tambaram revenue division of Kancheepuram district administration, reached Karikalan Nagar (extension) in ward 5 of Madambakkam town panchayat with earth-moving equipment and demolished many houses, including hutments and cement-concrete structures.

Residents were furious the houses they built with money saved over a lifetime were brought down in a heap in less than a minute. Angry women confronted government officials and asked what the government machinery was doing all these years.

They also questioned the sudden move to demolish their houses without any notices or timeframe to shift their belongings.

The residents said they had paid sums ranging between Rs. 50,000 and Rs. 2 lakh to purchase the plots and were even issued ration and voter identity cards. They were also provided with water and power supply.

“Are these not signs of recognition? Why then have they pulled down our houses,” asked Mathi Anand. She said the land was surveyed before purchase of the plots. Had the government warned them, at least during the constructing stage, they would have moved, she said.

Some of the residents said they had been living there for over 15 years. The sudden action of the government came as a rude shock, they said.

‘No violation of rules’

Officials who supervised the demolition of the encroachments said they had not violated any rules and were acting on a specific direction of the Madras High Court, which had directed them to address the problem of encroachments on Madambakkam Lake following a public interest litigation.

They said the water body spread over 100.3 hectares (250 acres) and nearly 25 acres of the lake was encroached upon. Notices to families living there were issued not once, but twice, over the past 18 months, under provisions of the Tamil Nadu Protection of Tanks and Eviction of Encroachment Act, 2007.

Land sharks with political affiliation took over lakes and such waterbodies, converted the land into housing plots and sold them to unsuspecting buyers. A few elected local representatives were among the encroachers, an official said. Encroachments in survey numbers 708 and 724 would be completely removed, the official said.

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