Come up with plan to restore Sholinganallur tank, says Madras High Court

Court order: The Semmenchery police station will remain shut till the expert body submits its report.  

The Madras High Court on Monday directed the State government to appoint an expert body to come up with the best possible solution to rejuvenate Periya Eri, a mosaic of tanks, consisting of Velaleri tank, Velalkani tank and Thamaraikani tank at Sholinganallur.

Since two faculty members from the Indian Institute of Technology-Madras reported largescale encroachments by the government as well, the court wanted to know if the restoration work could be undertaken now by displacing or dislodging the least number of people.

Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee and Justice Senthilkumar Ramamoorthy called for a preliminary report from the expert body within six weeks. The Chief Justice requested Advocate General R. Shunmugasundaram to bestow personal attention to the issue, since it could be replicated for protecting all waterbodies spread across the State.

The interim order was passed on a public interest litigation petition filed by Arappor Iyakkam, a non-governmental organisation, represented by its managing trustee Jayaram Venkatesan, complaining about the construction of the Semmenchery police station on Thamaraikani tank in 2019. Taking a serious note of the allegation, the judges had, in April, ordered for a study by IIT-M faculty.

Accordingly, professor Balaji Narasimhan and Soumendra Nath Kuiry from the Department of Civil Engineering were assigned the task. They informed the court on Monday that the water spread area of Thamaraikani tank alone was 13.47 hectare as per the Public Works Department’s tank memoir and that it had been irrigating around 250 acres. “However, there had been blatant and complete encroachment within the entire extent of Periya Eri… The encroachment is nearly complete on the middle portion, while the encroachment is nearly 60% to 70% on the southern side. On the northern side, in the Thamaraikani tank, the encroachment is by a Tangedco sub-station and the new Semmenchery police station,” the faculty said.

“For any meaningful and significant hydrological impact, and complete restoration of the waterbody, the removal of encroachments should be in total and without any exceptions,” the faculty members said. The first Division Bench ordered that no new construction should be permitted on the waterbody, and the police station should also not be made functional until the expert body submits a report on restoration work with minimum damage to existing encroachments.

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Printable version | Sep 20, 2021 5:52:02 PM |

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