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Botanical garden project, a non-starter

Serena Josephine. M
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A portion of land identified for botanical garden at Pallakaniyur on Yelagiri Hills.
A portion of land identified for botanical garden at Pallakaniyur on Yelagiri Hills.

It has been over two years since the State government proposed the setting up of the State’s largest botanical garden at Pallakaniyur at Yelagiri Hills, but the project is yet to see the light of day. And, the delay in execution is pushing the project cost up.

The botanical garden was to come up in about 83 acres at Pallakaniyur, one of the 14 villages on Yelagiri Hills, and considered a major initiative to boost tourism potential of the hill station.

Over Rs. 1 crore was sanctioned for constructing a compound wall around the site.

However, the work came to a standstill after villagers raised objections. The relocation of 15 families, for whom the identified site has been home and source of livelihood for several decades, has been holding up the project.

These families have been demanding alternative site to take up agriculture. “We have been living at Pallakaniyur for four to five generations. We cultivate crops such as millets and red gram. We also have about four to five cows and eight goats here,” said Saravanan, a resident of Pallakaniyur.

Saravanan along with a few villagers had also met officials of the Adi Dravidar and Tribal Welfare Department in Chennai. “We have requested the officials to provide us at least half or one acre of land on which we can take up cultivation and also provide place for our cattle,” he said.

Govindasamy, another villager, who works as an agricultural labourer, said they needed a proper place for relocation. Maayanchi, another resident of Pallakaniyur, said the government was yet to show the alternative site to them. “We don’t have power connections. We are dependent on a small stream nearby for water. We should be suitably compensated with land,” she said.

Officials of the Revenue administration pointed out that the families, all belonging to Nilavoor, have been staying on the poramboke land .

“These families have houses and land at Nilavoor but have put up huts and have been staying here. They are cultivating in small patches of land. We visited the place and decided to re-locate these families and give them group houses, if they wished. We have identified two to three places for them and we are trying for a place where they can continue cultivation and keep their cattle. We are waiting for the decision of the district administration,” a revenue official said.

“The original cost of the botanical garden was Rs. 20 crore. Now, we have redesigned it and will be submitting a revised estimate to the government,” he said.

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