Chennai: Contending that the elephant-human conflict will increase, if any unauthorised construction is permitted in eco-friendly hill area villages in Coimbatore, a public interest litigation has been filed in the Madras high court to restrain the Tamil Nadu Slum Clearance Board from constructing any building or altering the natural landscape in lands in hill area villages in Coimbatore district, for the purpose of constructing houses under the 'Home for Everyone' scheme.
A division bench comprising Justices S.Manikumar and Subramonium Prasad before whom the PIL filed by Vellingiri Hill Tribal Protection Society by its president V.Loganathan, came up for hearing, ordered notice, returnable by 3 weeks to the TNSCB, Coimbatore district collector and 8 others.
According to petitioner, Vellingiri Tribal Society got information that the TNSCB under the scheme was planning to construct 600 residences in Alanthurai-Kalimangalam village, 1,540 houses in the area near the forest in Thenkarai village, 2,500 houses near the hill area in Chettipalayam village in Perur and 70 houses for tribals in Alanthurai village. All these areas were coming under the Hill Area Conservation Authority. If any construction or infrastructure project were to be undertaken in these areas, necessary approval has to be obtained from revenue department, forest department, Pollution Control Board, agricultural department, Local Planning Authority, Town and Country Planning authority and transport department. Already in these villages many unauthorized constructions and large scale projects have led to elephants coming into the residential areas and causing large number of deaths and loss to crops. Forest department was taking various steps to control elephant-human conflict, he added.
He said in the last two years alone about 10 tribal community people have been killed by the elephants. Prior to this there was no such atmosphere in the forest. The main reason for the change in the forest atmosphere was because of large constructions made in the areas nearer to the natural corridor and habitats of elephants. The unmindful constructions right up to the margin of the forest has forced the elephants to stray into the villages and the agricultural lands.
It was highly dangerous for the government itself to undertake large unauthorized constructions without any approval and proper impact assessments in the elephant habitats. Even the Comptroller and Auditor General of India had made a scathing report about unauthorised constructions in eco-sensitive zone in its 2017 report pertaining to Tamil Nadu. From information obtained under RTI Act from various authorities it was very apparent that no approval had been obtained for these projects. More particularly, the forest department had given reply that till date no such approval had been obtained from them. However, the construction was being done hurriedly. Therefore, these unauthorized projects which were dangerous to the environment should not only be stopped, but the project should be shifted to some other places, he added....