CHENNAI: IIT Madras did not obtain consent from the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) for the buildings constructed on the campus since September 2006, according to a submission by the TNPCB to the National Green Tribunal on Monday. The Consent to Establish (CTE) from the TNPCB is mandatory since the campus is located in an ecologically sensitive area.
The reply filed by Romalt Terric Pinto, Chennai district’s environmental engineer, said IIT-M constructed 10 buildings and a few more are under construction. The total built-up area that does not have TNPCB’s approval is 3,29,676.12 square metres. The TNPCB has directed IIT-M to immediately apply for consent.
TNPCB’s affidavit was filed during a case on alleged unscientific disposal of solid waste on campus which was heard by the southern bench of the tribunal.
Official records show IIT-M, which came into existence in 1959, had a built-up area of 4,46,358.20 square metres till 2006 and subsequently renewed it till March 31, 2018. However, there is no record of any construction after 2006. TNPCB’s reply has come as a surprise to many since the petition had nothing to do with illegal building constructions. Petitioner Anthony Clement Rubin, an animal welfare activist, told Express that his petition was on the impact of unscientific disposal of solid waste on wildlife, especially deer and blackbuck.
“We were expecting a reply from IIT Madras but they had sought two weeks’ time. Frankly, we did not expect TNPCB to come up with such a reply on illegal constructions. We knew for sure that IIT Madras was violating building norms and now there is solid proof. I am planning to file an additional affidavit in NGT on unauthorised construction in the campus,” he said.
Noted environmentalist Nityanand Jayaraman, who released a document titled “City in the forest: The birth and growth of IIT Madras” in 2013 which detailed the misplaced expansion plans, claimed that IIT-M does not have building plan approval from the Chennai Metropolitan Development Authority (CMDA) since 2001.
Between 2001 and 2013, 37 buildings have been constructed with a combined building footprint area in excess of 200,000 square metres and IIT-M has not obtained any of the mandatory approvals. The CMDA website contains no details about any application from IIT-M for constructions within its campus, he claimed.When contacted, IIT-M director Bhaskar Ramamurti said that IIT-M has complied with all statutory norms. “I have not seen the reply filed by TNPCB and can’t comment. I am not sure whether we have to obtain CTE from TNPCB. We got CMDA approvals for some of the buildings and some are being processed. Our counsel will respond to the questions raised before the NGT,” he said.
Ecology and Biodiversity
A campus biodiversity report prepared in 2006 reports the presence of 51 species of birds, an equal number of butterflies, in addition to 300 plant species and 12 mammal species
The blackbuck, an endangered animal, and several threatened fauna like star tortoise, pangolin and monitor lizard are also found here
Barring the institutional status of the IIT premises, the ecosystem within the campus is identical to and as biodiverse and sensitive as the Guindy National Park
Along with the Raj Bhavan complex and the Guindy National Park, the IIT-M campus is one of the last remaining strongholds of the Southern Thorn Forests and Tropical Dry Evergreen Forests — a type that was once common on the Coromandel coast, but now considered to be very rare
History and Legal Status
IIT Madras is the result of an Indo-German agreement that was signed in 1959
Part of the 246-ha campus was carved out of the erstwhile Deer Park and handed overby the Government of Tamil Nadu. Other parcels of land were acquired from the villages of Taramani and Kanagam
The campus falls within three “Revenue Villages” — Guindy Park, Kanagam and Taramani — and shares a compound wall with the Guindy National Park
Originally a game reserve, the Guindy National Park has shrunk in size substantially over the years to accommodate various developments
In 1910, the British Government notified 505 ha of Guindy Forests as “Reserve Forest”
Between 1958 and 1977, a large tract of the Reserve Forest was transferred to various government departments to build memorials and educational institutions, including the IIT-M
In 1977, the remaining lands were transferred to the Tamil Nadu Forest Department and declared a national park in 1978
IIT-M is a “Society” registered under the Societies Act