Special Correspondent

Issues notices to Government, SIPCOT "Depletion of ground water and destruction of ground water recharge aquifers will affect the surrounding areas also"

CHENNAI: The Madras High Court has restrained the State Government from converting lakes and agricultural lands in Vallakottai and Vallamkandigai areas, near Sriperumpudur, into industrial lands and alloting them to private industrial establishments.

The First Bench comprising Chief Justice A.P. Shah and Justice K. Chandru passed the order of status quo and issued notices to the Government and the State Industries Promotion Corporation (SIPCOT), on a public interest litigation petition filed by Sriperumpudur block (east) president of the Congress Party and District Panchayat Councillor, M. Velu.

According to the petitioner, the Government and the SIPCOT were taking steps in a "surreptitious manner" to acquire lands in and around the villages and allot them to private industries. Stating that officials were not acting in a transparent manner, he said no package for rehabilitation of the victims of displacement had been envisaged or attempted.

He said the area was blessed with a large number of small and big lakes and ponds, besides a centuries old Murugan temple.

Officers visiting the area were informing the residents that they would allot the entire area to industrial establishments.

Pointing out that land acquisition of similar nature occurred in many other villages near Sriperumpudur, the petitioner said the 200-acre Thandalam lake, which used to be a big water spread till a few years ago, had become a dumping yard for industries and turned dry.

"Though the Chief Minister has repeatedly stated that punjai and nanjai agricultural lands will not be acquired for industrial use, we apprehend that the authorities may replicate the approach they have adopted in the neighbouring areas of Sriperumpudur taluk," he said.

"Depletion of ground water and destruction of ground water recharge aquifers will affect the surrounding areas also," Mr. Velu said, adding that establishment of industries in the catchment area would amount to strangulation of lakes and ponds.

He said the Vallakottai panchayat had passed a resolution on November 14 opposing any move to convert their agricultural lands into industrial use, whereas the Kancheepuram District Panchayat Council passed a similar resolution on November 24.

"The authorities have failed to see that it is incumbent upon them to carry out an environmental impact assessment and subject the project to public hearing and prior environmental clearance before setting up any industrial estate," he said