Tamil Nadu

Housing projects pose threat to Suchindram Theroor Bird Sanctuary in Tamil Nadu

A coconut grove facing the threat of being converted into a housing plot at Parakkai in Tamil Nadu’s Kanniyakumari district, which falls under a protected zone. Photo: Special Arrangement  

Lush, green paddy fields interspersed with banana and coconut groves stretch endlessly from one side of Parakkai Kulam, Kooni Kulam and Suchindram Kulam in Kanniyakumari district. They offer a habitat for native and migratory birds around the protected zone of the Suchindram Theroor Bird Sanctuary. However, with real estate sharks in the process of converting some wetlands into housing plots, the bird habitat has come under threat.

If the development goes unchecked, not only the sanctuary but also the people in nearby habitations will suffer as on the bed of Parakkai Kulam and Kooni Kulam lie innumerable borewells dug by the Tamil Nadu Water Supply and Drainage Board (TWAD) for supplying drinking water to the neighbouring villages.

C. Kosalai, president of Parakkai Panchayat, has woken up to the threat posed by real estate sharks. “I recently set out to prevent the owner of a wetland from creating a pathway to an area he had proposed to convert into housing plots,” she said.

“He denied having any such plans. But he had already divided the land into plots and sold them to a few individuals,” said Ms. Kosalai, who has put up boards on wetlands stating that land use conversion would not be permitted by the panchayat.

“I have been resisting the real estate lobby,” she added.

She pointed out that as early as in 2010, then Kanniyakumar Collector Rajendra Ratnoo had, following the depletion of the groundwater table due to indiscriminate conversion of wetlands for housing projects, issued an order directing the village administrative officers (VAOs) not to grant permission for construction activities on wetlands.

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But the order has seldom been followed. Already, the paddy fields irrigated by Putheri Kulam have become concrete patches.

“I have refused to sell my fields to the real estate lobby. They have surrounded my paddy fields with constructions, and have even been preventing water from flowing into my fields,” said Satha Sakthi, a native of Putheri. His efforts had previously led to the removal of the local panchayat president and vice-president for granting permission for housing plots.

In Parakkai, a 20-foot road divides the waterbody and the paddy fields, and behind the area marked for real estate development runs a canal carrying water to the fields for irrigation.

“The first casualty will be the canal. It will be polluted by the residents if housing permission is granted,” Ms. Kosalai said.

The real estate lobby circumvents the Collector’s order using a time-tested method. First, they will cultivate plantain and coconut in the paddy field. In two years, they will remove the banana crop and nurture the coconut. Later, the area will be levelled for a housing layout.

“But you have to get permission even to change the crop in Kanniyakumari district, as the purpose of changing the crop is to create housing plots,” said Lal Mohan, convener, Nagercoil chapter of the Indian National Trust for Culture and Heritage, who has been fighting similar issues in the district legally.

Ornithologist Rober Grubh said the conversion of wetlands into housing plots would have a heavy bearing on birds’ habitat.

“All the wading birds in the waterbodies go outside to feed and come back. Not just the sanctuary, but the areas around it should also be protected,” Mr. Grubh said.

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Printable version | Nov 29, 2020 4:34:18 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/housing-projects-pose-threat-to-suchindram-theroor-bird-sanctuary-in-tamil-nadus-kanniyakumari-district/article32767615.ece

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