Chennai: A Public Interest Litigation has been filed in the Madras high court to direct the Regional Institute of Ophthalmology and Government Ophthalmic Hospital to refrain from felling trees inside its campus on Rukmani Lakshmipathy Salai, Egmore and construct its proposed structures on suitable lands without felling trees in its campus.
A division bench comprising Justices M.Sathyanarayanan and N.Seshasayee before whom the PIL filed by Capt.P.N.Narayanan, a resident of the area, came up for hearing, directed the Registry to post before the appropriate roster bench for hearing.
According to petitioner, he was filing the present petition aggrieved by the proposal of the Regional Institute of Ophthalmology and Government Ophthalmic Hospital to fell 75 fully grown trees with wide canopy, serving as habitat for birds including black kites, parakeets and the shrubbery in the area, which also serves as habitat of mongoose and other animals. This patch of about 4 acres of land has been left undisturbed so long, which has aided in this land supporting biodiversity that has become extinct in other parts of the city, he added.
He said the eye hospital (Regional Institute of Ophthalmology and Government Ophthalmic Hospital) was said to be the second oldest hospital of its kind in the world. An organization such as the eye hospital ought not to embark upon such ecologically destructive and environmentally deleterious activity. While it might be necessary that the hospital needs additional buildings for its functioning, the same can be constructed in the space available in the same campus and the adjacent nursing quarters, which will not involve clearing of this area and destruction of this local habitat, he added.
He said he has been a resident of this locality for the past 14 years. The lush green cover in question serves important ecological functions and regulates the micro climate of the area. The open space has also aided in groundwater recharge. The importance of this area, which serves as lung space, cannot be over stated. There was sufficient non-tree covered space available in the campus and the adjoining nursing quarters where old, dilapidated and disused buildings were present and the same could be demolished for construction of the proposed structures of the hospital.
However, the hospital has proceeded to clear some undergrowth and has proceeded to mark the areas.
The eye hospital has also brought in construction labour to the site and the next stage was felling of trees and land clearing. Once the trees were felled and the land was altered, it cannot be restored. The eye hospital ought to see that the ecological services provided by the trees in urban areas have to be taken into account. Trees provide various ecological services to humans and the environment such as production of oxygen, carbon sequestration, cleaning and cooling of the air, providing of shade and shelter, providing habitat to birds and biodiversity etc., he added.