Rehabilitation row delays Cooum project

People in five habitations have been strongly resisting relocation amid political interference

August 02, 2021 01:12 am | Updated 01:13 am IST - CHENNAI

Residents of five habitations along the Cooum continue to offer stiff resistance to resettlement, disrupting the eco-restoration project.

Setting a deadline of December 2021, officials of various line agencies of the State government are planning to offer attractive options for residents who resist resettlement.

At least 80% of the work in mitigating sewage pollution in the river has been completed.

However, the recent intervention by political leaders in the issue of resettlement along the Cooum has disrupted the plans of the government agencies.

On Sunday, the Greater Chennai Corporation announced that it had advised the PWD not to resume demolition before providing alternative houses in a few habitations that report resistance.

Corporation Commissioner Gagandeep Singh Bedi said 93 families had been shifted from Arumbakkam to new houses in Pulianthope. “The new houses are nice actually. We will take care of the families. Our purpose is not to dislocate any family,” said Mr. Bedi.

At least seven habitations continue to resist resettlement. Officials have planned to give them better options, including houses in the core city areas such as K.P. Park in Pulianthope, which is 9 km away from the site of demolition.

Alternative methods of resettlement with attractive options have been planned for the residents of around 10 of the 60 habitations along the river.

“We have completed resettlement of 12,400 families in 50 habitations. People in some habitations continue to resist. We have started persuading them. At least 1,900 families have to be resettled to complete eco-restoration of the Cooum,” said an official.

The areas that are resisting include a Bharathipuram, Kathiravan Colony, Manjakollai, Gajalakshmi Colony and Thiruveethiamman Koil street.

Once the residents are resettled, the Cooum will become 100% wider as against its present width in such areas.

The maximum width of the river has increased to 300 metres as against 100 metres before the removal of encroachments.

Officials said the opposition by various political leaders had disrupted the process.

VCK’s stand

After meeting the affected people in R.K. Nagar in Arumbakkam, Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi founder Thol. Thirumavalavan said the Corporation had identified 93 houses on the banks of Cooum in Arumbakkam.

“The alternate accommodation has been provided in Pulianthope. Four or five houses of those who agreed to move to Pulianthope had been demolished after they had removed their possessions. People have been slowly removing their possessions. Around 21 people, who have been staying here on rent for a long time, have demanded houses in Pulianthope. This has been rejected by officials. We urge the Corporation to accept this demand,” he said.

Mr. Thirumavalavan said families who had been living in the city for generations were consistently being uprooted from their place. “Many of them drive rickshaws and do household work. If they are being removed from this place, it affects their livelihood. Even if they are given a house, they cannot travel 20 km and do their day-to-day work. Though the State government says those living on Cooum river banks are being evicted based on Court order, they should be allotted houses in the same place where they are living,” he said. He said that evicting people would affect the DMK politically.

The Chennai Rivers Restoration Trust, formed in 2010, has been coordinating with with various departments and agencies to implement the Cooum eco-restoration project in the city.

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