CHENNAI: The National Green Tribunal on Friday temporarily restrained the Public Works Department (PWD) from carrying out any earth-filling activity on the Porur lake bed.
The Southern bench of the tribunal issued an interim order, while hearing a petition which alleged that the government agency was engaged in “building a road” in the lake. It was also alleged that the agency was not taking efforts to retrieve a 17-acre-bed of the lake encroached by an adjoining educational institution.
The Porur lake is one of the drinking water resources for Chennai city. It is also widely believed that the once majestic lake had shrunk much due to encroachments. It is also one of the three water bodies chosen to create additional storage capacity to meet the city’s drinking water needs.
Quoting news reports published by The New Indian Express, the petitioner V Meghanathan submitted that the Water Resources Department, a wing of the PWD and responsible for the water bodies, was continuing filling up a portion of the lake, claiming it to be part of a private land.
“Several earth-moving equipment were brought in by unknown people who have started filling up the stretch of the water body beneath the Chennai bypass road with mud. The officials, upon enquiry, gave an unconvincing and evasive reply that they were creating a bund to secure the lake from encroachments and further stated that they would form bund for the distance 800 metres (sic),” said the petition.
The petitioner argued that while the officials claimed that they had retrieved 17 acres of encroached land, a private institution had also put up a notice board that the 17 acres of land belonged to them.
The petitioner also highlighted the comments of a former special chief engineer of the PWD at a press meet recently that a portion of the Porur lake was handed over to a private trust in 1986 by the department, despite stiff opposition from the then Chief Engineer. “The lake that once measured a majestic 800 acres has now been reduced to less then half. Only 330 acres remain on revenue records now,” the petitioner said, quoting the retired official. Hearing the arguments of the petitioner’s advocate K Rajashekaran, the bench comprising P Jothimani and R Nagendran, issued an interim stay restraining the PWD from carrying out any earth filling activity in the lake. It directed the government pleader to file an affidavit on July 22, the date of the next hearing.