Tamil Nadu

‘Parking lot plan a threat to Ooty’s lone wetland’

Udhagamandalam, Tamil Nadu, 27/08/2019: Of the 52 acres of land now 1.5 acres of land has been given away. Earlier, the MRC has given away 15 acres of land, In nut shell, in bits and peices, the wet land is being diverted for other purposes than what it was originally meant for, aerial view of the Race course land wiich is been handed over to the district administration. Photo : Special arrangement   | Photo Credit: Specialarrangement

The wetland atop which the horse racing track operated by the Madras Race Club (MRC) sits was once part of a huge expansive marsh, extending all the way to the areas surrounding the Ooty Boat House. But it has gradually been diminished by uncontrolled construction over the last few decades, conservationists say.

The marsh, the remnants of which can still be seen on Fern Hill in Udhagamandalam, around the main bus stand and the Udhagamandalam Railway Station, is facing the threat of being completely destroyed by not only private building projects but also the actions of government agencies, felt G. Janardhanan, president of the Ooty Public Awareness Association. “The wetland is not only a hugely important part of the ecosystem of Udhagamandalam, but also provides invaluable eco-services to residents living here, by helping replenish underground aquifers,” said V. Sivadas, managing trustee, Nilgiri Environment and Cultural Service Trust.

The portion of the wetland atop which the race course is situated has remained protected till now because developmental activities had not been allowed by the MRC. However, over the years, the rest of the land has been handed over to the government for various purposes, leading to it gradually diminishing in size. Of the 52-acre site, 1.6 acres was recently handed over to the district administration for setting up a parking lot, while another 15 acres was given away earlier. “Huge quantities of rainwater, which would otherwise flow down from the surrounding slopes and flood the entire town, are now absorbed by the wetland, which acts as a water sink,” said Godwin Vasanth Bosco, a restoration ecologist “The effects of the loss of the surrounding wetland is already seen during heavy rains, when the Kodappamund Channel regularly overflows and floods the low-lying areas of Udhagamandalam town,” he said.

Leaders of the Badaga community, who are opposed to the proposed relocation of the race track near Kotagiri, said the district administration should have first held talks with stakeholders and thrashed out an agreement acceptable to all parties instead of “rushing through with the process”.

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Printable version | Feb 26, 2021 7:18:28 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/parking-lot-plan-a-threat-to-ootys-lone-wetland/article29273331.ece

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