TN: Encroachments remain on Pallikaranai marsh

CHENNAI: Two years after the ordered the removal of squatters from various portions of the ecologically sensitive Pallikaranai marshland and at least 500 people were issued eviction notices, the illegal residents remain.

The revenue department has not been giving the required support, say forest deparment officials who have collected details of 575 encroachers and need information about another 510 squatters. An official said the had taken place before the land was handed over to them and when the marsh was under the revenue department‘s control.

Of the five areas where the marshland land has been converted into residential plots, Kamakshi Nagar has 550 squatters, followed by K P Kandhan Nagar (230), Quaid-e-Milleth Nagar (115), Ambedkar Nagar (110) and Mahalakshmi Nagar (70).

In November last year, the forest department began issuing eviction notices before the monsoon forced a halt. Work restarted in December and continued till February this year. During the three-month period, a tahsildhar from Kancheepuram district accompanied the forest officials on most occasions. But, whenever they were ‘surrounded‘ by the squatters, there were no revenue officials, said a forester. “All the encroachments have taken place when the property was with the revenue department. But the court ordered us to remove the encroachments with the help of revenue and other officials who have not been helping,” he added.

Another officer said that during a meeting at the secretariat a couple of months ago, the revenue and other departments were represented by local officials who promised to inform higher-ups about the slow progress of the eviction process. Nothing happened, he said.

Pallikaranai, one of the last remaining wetlands in the Chennai region, has been struggling to survive despite the tremendous pressure exerted by humans through indiscriminate dumping of garbage, releasing untreated raw sewage and throwing hazardous wastes along its banks and even in the middle. Originally spread over 7,000 hectares, the marsh is now reduced to a mere 695 hectares. A sizebale portion of this has been turned into a dump yard whose size is gradually but inexorably extending each year.

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