Activists criticise construction of observation deck in Udhagamandalam

September 03, 2023 08:06 pm | Updated 08:06 pm IST - UDHAGAMANDALAM

The observation tower that is being constructed at Valley View Junction in Udhagamandalam.

The observation tower that is being constructed at Valley View Junction in Udhagamandalam. | Photo Credit: SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

Construction of an observation deck with a telescope overlooking the Ketti Valley is on without relevant building approvals and in violation of the Master Plan, allege activists.

The observation deck is being constructed at a cost of ₹40 lakh, with funds sanctioned for the bicentenary celebrations of the Nilgiris, with the viewpoint set atop the Ketti Valley. The construction has been undertaken by the Udhagamandalam Municipality, officials added.

However, the construction of the observatory, which is said to be similar in design to the one already at Doddabetta Peak in Udhagamandalam has raised concerns among activists as they allege that the existing building rules are flouted by the government itself.

According to Shobana Chandrashekar, from the Make Ooty Beautiful (MOB) Project, existing rules in the district stipulate that buildings can only be seven metres high. “The building rules were framed to ensure their safety and the integrity of the slope. The area where the observatory is being built, in the Valley View Junction, witnesses heavy rainfall and is prone to landslips,” said Ms. Chandrashekar.

“We have all witnessed how buildings on top of vertically-cut slopes in other parts of India faced disastrous consequences. Such large buildings and structures could have an impact on the stability of the slope, putting the buildings as well as residents living further down the valley at risk,” added Ms. Chandrashekar.

Other residents have also raised concerns about the location where the observatory is being built at the town entrance. “The area is already facing traffic bottlenecks during weekends and tourist seasons as the road narrows into the town. The addition of another tourist attraction, with little to no parking facilities, will lead to further traffic blocks,” said G. Janardhanan, president of the Ooty Public Awareness Association.

A senior official from the Nilgiris district administration said the construction has not been brought before the Architectural and Aesthetic Aspects (AAA) Committee, and so, clearances by the Hill Area Conservation Authority (HACA) are yet to be sought.

Municipal officials were unavailable for comment.

Nilgiris Collector (in-charge) Keerthi Priyadarshini said the building exceeded the stipulated height of seven metres, as it should be tall enough for the viewpoint to be viable. She said that she will conduct an inspection of the building, and considering that it is a government project, could recommend for an exemption.

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