Tamil Nadu

Effort to transport 300-tonne stone alters river courses in Tamil Nadu

With NHAI bridges unable to support the 300-tonne stone, massive diversions have become necessary

The steady rumble of the earth mover competed with the sound of the gushing Thenpennai river. The machine ploughed through the riverbed, scooping out mounds of mud on to a ramp 100 feet long, 25 feet wide and 20 feet high being constructed across the river in Perandapalli village along the Krishnagiri-Hosur stretch of the national highway.

The ramp will allow the passage of a multi-axle truck bearing a 300-tonne, partially-carved stone monolith for a Vishnu sculpture commissioned by the Kondaramaswamy Charitable Trust, a private trust based in Bengaluru. The truck has been on the road since last year.

With no Public Works Department (PWD) officials in sight, the ramp is blocking the water’s course even as inflow into the river from the upstream Kelavarapalli dam is substantial. Underneath the bund created by the ongoing construction, three pipelines have been laid to regulate water under the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) bridge.

The Thenpennai, fed by the Kelavarapalli dam, irrigates over five districts.

“[The Trust] wanted to stop the inflow into the river completely,” said a PWD official, speaking on condition of anonymity. “In fact, water was stopped from the dam for 10 hours. But, after rains in Bengaluru, Kelavarapalli dam had to be opened up.”

Carved out of a hillock in Tiruvannamalai district, the stone has been moving at a snail’s pace along narrow State highways across three districts, leaving behind a trail of damage to private and public property. The past seven months have seen a spate of protests over the passage of the monolith.

But, when the vehicle entered the national highway, it went off the radar, until the private trust started to lay ramps on small rivers after the NHAI denied permission for passage over bridges. A representative of the Trust claimed that the NHAI had permitted them to divert the truck over rivers without the consent of the PWD.

In early February, a similar ramp was constructed across the Markandeya river without the PWD’s consent. Local PWD officials professed ignorance of the matter, when contacted. When a PWD engineer reached the river, and directed that the work be stopped, he received a call. “They have received ‘common permission’ it seems from Tiruvannamalai,” he said.

The Kodandaramaswamy Trust received permission to carve out and transport the stone through a G.O. in 2014, and the Tiruvannamalai Collector was appointed the nodal officer to facilitate the passage of the consignment.

Armed with permissions from the Ministry of Roads and Highways, the Kodandaramaswamy Trust seemed to get single-window clearance that bypassed local departmental jurisdictions — something unavailable for consignment movement by any other private party.

When contacted, Krishnagiri Collector S. Prabhakar said: “The Tiruvannamalai Collector is the nodal officer, and where the stone can’t pass, temporary diversions can be made, but the land must be restored.” However, on Saturday, two ramps constructed three months ago across Markandeya river and Chinnar were still standing.

When it was pointed out that these ramps remained intact, Mr. Prabhakar said he would issue orders for their immediate removal.

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Printable version | Feb 21, 2020 4:35:00 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/effort-to-transport-300-tonne-stone-alters-river-courses-in-tamil-nadu/article27175275.ece

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