Delay in laying road to village in Erode’s Bargur Hills irks residents

Residents have been demanding a proper road to their village, Sundapur in Bargur Hills, for several years; clearances are yet to be obtained, stalling construction work; residents say during the rains, sick people have to be carried on makeshift stretchers to hospitals, as no vehicles can access the village

May 01, 2023 03:57 pm | Updated 03:57 pm IST - ERODE 

Residents of Sundapur village use the forest road to reach the Thamaraikarai-Bargur Road, in Erode district. They have been asking for a proper access road to their village for several years now

Residents of Sundapur village use the forest road to reach the Thamaraikarai-Bargur Road, in Erode district. They have been asking for a proper access road to their village for several years now | Photo Credit: Govarthan M

The inordinate delay in laying a road to Sundapur village in Bargur Hills continues to cause hardship to the 500-odd residents, as pregnant women and patients have to be carried in makeshift stretchers to hospitals, during the rainy season.  

The village is located 6 km from the Thamaraikarai – Bargur Road, where 59 tribal families and 200-odd families of the Lingayat community have been residing for many generations. While a 3 km mud road passes through the forest area, the rest of the road comes under the panchayat’s administration. “During the rainy season, the road turns slushy and waterflow in the streams prevents the movement of ambulances and two-wheelers,” said Chikkaiaha, a resident of the village.

The long-pending demand of the people to re-lay the road finally took shape when a 3 km tar-topped road was sanctioned under the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana (PMGSY) III 2020-21 Batch I, at a cost of ₹ 2.82 crore. A tender was floated on December 8, 2020 and the then District Collector and Chairman of the District Rural Development Agency (DRDA) had, on January 26, 2021, issued a notice to an Erode-based construction company, Gayathiri Associate, to proceed with the work. The work included laying a 3-metre road for 3 km, constructing 11 small culverts, and six retaining walls.

Permission was then sought from the Forest Engineer, Engineering Division, Tiruchi, and from the District Forest Officer (DFO), Erode Division, to lay the road for six metres instead of three. The road was proposed to connect the village where the Lingayat community members reside, as tribal families reside some distance away from the village. However, the then DFO, Erode Division, had, through a letter dated March 10, 2022, informed the DRDA that the proposed road passes through the reserve forest area where the Right of Way was only 2.74 metres, whereas permission has been sought for six metres. Also, permission can be given under Section 3 (2) of the Forest Rights Act, 2006, only if the diverted forest land is used for tribal people. “But, the proposed approach road is not to the tribal settlement,” the letter clarified and said that permission could not be given for the proposed road. 

The letter said if additional land was required for laying the road, an application could be uploaded online to obtain forest clearance under Section 2 of the Forest Conservation Act, 1980 (use of forest land for non-forest purpose) from the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Government of India. Hence, the contractor could not start work on the project.  

A senior engineer at DRDA said that 18,000 square metres of land was required for the road, whereas available land spanned only 8,100 square metres. “Revenue officials have identified compensatory land of 10,000 sq.mt that would be transferred to the Forest Department. We will soon submit an application to the Central government to obtain approval,” he said. The engineer said that the project cost would be revised and a fresh tender would be floated after getting the approval. 

Anthiyur MLA A.G. Venkatachalam told The Hindu that a joint meeting with various departments would be held soon to expedite the process so that the road is laid soon, which would be a permanent solution to the long-standing problem. The MLA also added that roads would also be laid from Solakanai, Thamaraikarai to Madam and from Madam to Chennampatti, various tribal settlements in the hill areas, to connect them.

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