Tamil Nadu

Activists against widening Girivalam path

NATURE DESTROYED:The trees that are being cut and uprooted in the process of widening of the Girivalam path in Tiruvannamalai.— Photot: Special Arrangement  

As the Girivalam path widening programme gains momentum, environmentalists and activists are apprehensive that it could cause permanent damage to a sacred grove eco-system. It could also antagonise farmers who will lose their agricultural land.

Implemented at a cost of Rs.65 crore, the widening project is creating a lane of 7 to 10 m width for pedestrians/pilgrims who take up circumambulation of the holy hill by walk. The first phase of the work started on Chengam Road section of Girivalam path just before the announcement of elections and has picked up pace now.

Several tamarind trees and rain trees close to the road and forest were felled for expansion of the road which is only on the urbanised section till now. When widening is taken up beyond Chengam Road junction, naturalists say that it would drive right through Sonagiri forests, a rich and unique sacred grove, and the only part of the forest that has remain untouched.

Wildlife

“Sonagiri forest is home to unique birds like Paradise Fly Catcher, Indian Blue Robin, Tickell’s Blue Fly Catcher and Mottled Wood Owl, and so on. Several migratory birds like Pitta and Forest Wagtail visit this forest,” says Kumar, a bird watcher.

“It is also the habitat for a good number of wild animals like deer, jackals, porcupines and anteaters. Kadambai, Maruthu, Azhinjil and Iluppai trees can be found only in this part of forest in Tiruvannamalai hill,” he adds.

The new path would also go through agricultural fields located on the foothills for want of space in Adi Annamalai village. The government is planning land acquisition in this segment and could antagonise farmers, say locals.

The 2.6 km-long pedestrian platform with tiled floor, laid about 5-6 years ago between Abhaya Mandapam and Anna Arch, that is in good condition, is being demolished to make way for the widening, officials say.

Reassessment on

Asked for a response, Collector A. Gnanasekaran said the work has been stopped now and a reassessment is being done.

“Initially, we planned to cut 218 trees, then we reduced it to 125 trees. For every tree that is being cut, we plan to grow 20 trees. Saplings have been planted in the places where trees were cut on Chengam Road,” he said.

“The project should be scrapped. They should stop the expansion at Chengam Road,” says Kumar Ambayiram, an environmental activist, who successfully organised people’s protest against iron ore mining in Kavuthi-Vediyappan Hills near here.

“The crowds walk the path on only one night every month. Damage of this scale in the name of development is unwarranted,” he notes.

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Printable version | Jan 21, 2021 1:17:01 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/Activists-against-widening-Girivalam-path/article14429437.ece

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