IIT Accused of Cutting Campus Trees, Director Denies Violation
Alleging that construction work carried out on the IIT-Madras campus between 2001 and 2013 did not have the Chennai Metropolitan Development Authority’s consent, activists on Friday called for an immediate freeze on all expansion activities. However, IIT-M director Bhaskar Ramamurthy denied any violation.
Releasing a study titled ‘City in the Forest: The Birth and Growth of IIT Madras’ carried out by the Chennai Solidarity Group, environment activist, Nityanand Jayaraman said 39 renovation projects in the 12 years since 2001 have resulted in felling of 8,000 trees on the campus, which has the Guindy National Park in its neighbour.
New infrastructure projects proposed by the institution, he alleged, would result in felling of 10,000 more trees, causing irreparable damage to the sensitive environment. Jayaraman said having been declared as an “institutional” area in the second master plan for the city, IIT Madras requires the approval of the CMDA for all construction projects. Also, given its proximity to a national park, which was within a radius of 10 km, clearance from the National Board of Wildlife and the Supreme Court was necessary for such projects on the campus. But the report said no such approvals seem to have been obtained. The report also highlighted the stress on the campus environment that the cultural extravaganza of the institution, Saarang, created.
He said, at `1.6 crore (Saarang 2012), IIT’s Saarang is the most expensive student-organised fair that provided multinational corporate sponsors a platform to market to a youth audience.
“Come January, the Saarang cultural festival will bring in more than 50,000 visitors and 13,000 vehicles for five nights of loud music, dance and cultural events. The natural environment in the campus will not be able to withstand the high-decibel event of the institute,” he observed and added that over 50 animals have faced unnatural deaths on the campus in the past year.
Former IAS officer, M G Devasahayam, said IIT Madras was handed over the forest land in the late 1950s with a clear instruction that not more than 15 per cent of the land should be cleared of forests for constructions.
But this limit on the 625 acre campus has been already breached, the former IAS officer alleged.
Devasahayam said the area being the only forest in the city, it was vital for the environment at large. “At 9.5 per cent, Chennai has the lowest forest cover of all major metros in India. If we allow these constructions, there will come a time when we will have no trees at all in Chennai,” he pointed out.