Tiruchirapalli

Pachamalai ghat road remains in tatters

A badly damaged stretch of road between Shobanapuram and Top Sengattupatti in Tiruchi district

A badly damaged stretch of road between Shobanapuram and Top Sengattupatti in Tiruchi district | Photo Credit: HAND OUT

The continued neglect of the forest road on the ghat section from Shobanapuram to Top Sengattupatti on Pachamalai, part of the Eastern Ghats, in Tiruchi district has caused frustration among residents atop the hills.

An apology for a road, it is also proving to be a huge put-off for picnickers to Top Sengattupatti, where the Forest Department has provided various amenities as part of an eco-tourism project a few years ago. Treetop houses, dormitories and interpretation centre were established as part of the project.

Situated about 90 km from Tiruchi, Pachamalai has been a weekend getaway for many seeking to beat the heat in the city. Endowed with thick forest, waterfalls and ridges, it is also frequented by trekkers.

However, the ghat road, running for a distance of about 14 km from Shobanapuram to Top Sengattupatti, has not been relaid for several years now. The road has been completely eroded at some stretches. The rugged terrain with potholes gives a torrid time for motorists, including drivers of the Tamil Nadu State Transport Corporation buses operating to the hill villages from Thuraiyur and Athur. Passengers of vehicles have to endure a back-breaking experience, complain residents.

“There are over 30 villages atop the hills, falling under Tiruchi and Salem districts. Commuters, especially students, have to endure a dangerous drive up and down the hills every day as the road at several places is in a very bad condition. Apart from relaying the road, channels that enable rainwater to flow down the hill should be traced and revived,” observes N. Saravanan, a road safety activist, who has been lobbying for the past few years for relaying the road.

He points out that lorries regularly transport heavy loads of tapioca grown by the tribal farmers from atop the hill. Pressing for the road to be handed over to the State Highways Department from the Forest Department, Mr.Saravanan contends that all the other ghat roads on hilly terrains are under the Highways Department. “If the road is handed over, the Highways Department can take up regular maintenance,” he says.

Repeated representations to the authorities have not resulted in any tangible action so far, locals complain. “There are 10,000 tribal farmers and farm labourers in the villages atop the hills. They face much hardship in transporting farm inputs and farm produce up and down the hills. Students, pregnant women and the sick undergo untold suffering,” says P. Ramasamy, founder president, Tamil Desiya Malainadu Makkal Katchi.

“We staged a road blockade about one-and-a-half years in protest against the poor condition of the road and were arrested. In the talks that followed, officials had assured that the road would be relaid immediately. But they have not kept their word. The police denied permission for us for a relay-fast planned by us until the road is relaid from May 16. I have now petitioned the Tahsildar seeking permission to stage the protest,” said Mr .Ramasamy.

When contacted, a Forest Department official said that sanction for a proposal for relaying the road was expected soon. “The revised estimates and clarifications for queries raised on it have been sent. We expect funds to be sanctioned soon,” he said. On the possibility of handing over the road to the Highways Department, the official said that it was a long drawn out process, requiring the clearance of the Union government.


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Printable version | Aug 6, 2022 6:21:30 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Tiruchirapalli/pachamalai-ghat-road-remains-in-tatters/article65515054.ece