Collector suspends felling of trees along ‘girivalam’ path

Assures protesters that alternative alignment will be explored

July 02, 2016 12:00 am | Updated 05:50 am IST - Tiruvannamalai:

Under fire:An earthmover removes trees in the periphery of the Sonagiri forest located along the girivalam path in Tiruvannamalai on Friday.— Photo: C. Venkatachalapathy

Under fire:An earthmover removes trees in the periphery of the Sonagiri forest located along the girivalam path in Tiruvannamalai on Friday.— Photo: C. Venkatachalapathy

Steadfast protest of people from all walks of life in Tiruvannamalai on Friday on the girivalam path made the Collector A. Gnanasekaran to suspend the order on felling of trees until he takes a relook at the spot. He said he will explore the possibilities for alternative alignment.

Though the protesters wanted total withdrawal of the project, they welcomed the gesture of the Collector.

The project proposes to widen the road by 7 to 10 meter along the 14 km route around the Tiruvannamalai hill and apportion a lane for girivalam devotees to walk around the hill. Though devotees go around the hill walking barefoot every day, lakhs of people perform it on every full moon day.

About half of the route that traverses through Tiruvannamalai town and overlaps a national highway has become urbanised. Another half that starts from Chengam Road junction and ends at Vellore Road junction remains a pristine beauty and a real avenue flanked by forests.

Though the protesters oppose the project in total, they are more concerned about preserving this half, especially the Sonagiri forest. It is the only natural forest (where humans never planted trees) that remains intact in the hill that serves as a house to rich diversity of plants, animals and birds. The proposed alignment of the widening project cuts through this forest encircling a few road side threethams (ponds).

Human chain

Earthmovers entered this serene section a couple of days ago and were digging trenches for constructing a 12km-long drainage along the forest as part of the project.

Expecting the machines to touch the trees of Sonagiri forests on Friday for digging the trench, about hundred activists and concerned devotees assembled in the place in the early morning.

They blocked the bull-dozer and asked the workers to wait till their proposed meeting with the Collector by 10 a.m. They formed a human chain there and resolved to face the situation without resorting to any lawless activities.

Mix of emotions

The workers pretended to heed their request. But after moving a few hundred meters away from the spot they started felling trees in the peripheries of the Sonagiri forest. The protesters, that included some western devotees, ran to the place and shouted angrily. Some of them like Psychiatrist Dr. Seetha started weeping on seeing the felled trees. A mix of anger and emotion prevailed there. They suddenly sat there blocking the road.

DSP Saravanakumar initially tried to vacate them terming their protest as illegal. However protesters persisted.

Prominent citizens like writer Bava Chelladurai, banker turned cinema actor Murugan, Lions club functionary and literary aficionado Kuzhandaivel and local trader Satheesh Sankar argued with the officer and made him get an assurance from the work supervisor to stop till the proposed talks with the Collector.

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