Students of Madura College come up with a project highlighting environmental issues relating to four-lane roads

Can four-lane roads cause damage to the environment? A study conducted by a group of students from Madura College confirms it. Four-track roads, which are part of the Golden Quadrilateral project, have been laid by destroying acres of fertile land and have also turned neighbouring lands arid, says S. Balakrishnan, project guide.

A 3 km stretch, covering panchayats of Erkudi, Achampathu and Thuvariman, was considered for the study. According to the group’s finding, 45 acres of agricultural land along this stretch were destroyed to lay this road. Also, because of haphazard stone pitching on the sloped sides of the four-way bridges, the clay soil has slid and polluted neighbouring fertile lands.

The study, ‘The Impact and Incidents of Golden Four Ways’, was submitted to ‘Earthian 2012’, a sustainability programme for schools and colleges organised by Wipro. Other members of the team are S. Ananda Srinivasan, III B.Sc. Mathematics, N. Naga Ramika, II B.Sc. Physics, M. Arumuga Dass, II M.A. Philosophy, and E. Anushree, M.Phil English, who is leader of the team.

The road has also caused severe climatic changes, says Anushree. “Several trees that disturbed their path were thoughtlessly felled and little effort was taken to replant,” she says. “It has resulted in low rainfall in the region and depletion of water table in the nearby areas.”

The team found that around 15 neem, tamarind and mango trees were felled to make way for this road.

“Seven wells, which have been the main source of irrigation for some 60 years for the famers, have been closed now,” says Balakrishnan. “Also due to water depletion, the fertile lands have become barren. It has forced the farmers to sell their lands to realtors, who are making money. Proximity to the road has now become the big selling point,” he says.

The Thuvariman pond, with a surface area of around 300 acres and irrigating more than 600 acres of land in its ayacut, was also disfigured. “The road runs across the pond, reducing the tank’s storage capacity,” says Anushree.

“As a resident of Achampathu, I have seen how these roads have come up right from the acquisition stage,” says Balakrishnan. “No doubt, these roads are a big advantage for the city as they ease traffic congestion. But, those at the helm of the affairs should have planned well and taken a circuitous route to prevent any damage to the agricultural land and water sources,” he says.

The team has worked on this project for more than three months. “At a time when the state is witnessing shortage in food production, destroying fertile lands amounts to digging graveyard for agriculture,” says Anushree.

This project was shortlisted as one of the 40 best among 700 entries. “We had to compete with universities and institutes of international repute,” says Balakrishnan. “We feel proud to say that we were the only arts college to get shortlisted.”

“What we have done is only the tip of an iceberg,” says Anushree. “If a 3 km stretch can cause such an irreparable damage to nature, just imagine the four-track roads in the rest of the country.”