Houses evicted but free pass for other encroachments

Govindasamy Nagar residents out, but no action against other buildings, including substation, within the Buckingham Canal boundary line

Published: 20th May 2022 06:32 AM  |   Last Updated: 20th May 2022 06:32 AM   |  A+A-

Express News Service

CHENNAI: A fortnight after residents of Govindasamy Nagar in Mylapore were evicted and a man died by suicide in a bid to stop the drive, no action seems to have been taken against other buildings that fall within the Buckingham Canal boundary line including Tangedco’s 230 KV substation located just metres from the eviction site.

Revenue maps of the canal boundary accessed by TNIE and verified by revenue officials, superimposed with a satellite image, show the substation is of the same alignment from the canal as that of the Govindasamy Nagar houses and a large part of the substation falls within the canal’s boundary.

The official argument that the waterbody is meandering and its boundary excludes the substation and includes only the residential area in Govindasamy Nagar may not hold true since the canal is manmade and rarely shows sudden variations in width unlike the naturally meandering Cooum, for instance, said a government official who did not want to be named.

“If you look at the revenue records of the Buckingham Canal in that stretch, you will find the width is fairly consistent throughout,” the official said.In response to a writ petition that called for the demolition of the “unauthorised” substation, the Madras High Court had ruled in 2016 that the court was not inclined to examine the public interest litigation further since a report submitted by IIT-Madras said the committee did not see any cause for alarm about the substation’s safety.

“The committee finds the site to be safe from flooding and the construction provides adequate ways for water elimination,” the IIT report had said. While lack of safety against flooding was one of the arguments put forth by the government to remove houses in Govindasamy Nagar, no steps were taken to assess their safety as was done in the case of the substation. 

In 2016, the then PWD secretary told the court, “… (Buckingham Canal) is a man-made canal for the purpose of navigation centuries ago and it is not a flood carrier and there had not been any incidence of flooding in the canal ever.”

“The Govindasamy Nagar eviction is a failure on the part of the State to regularise settlements and ensure access to legal and policy safeguards. Government should continue to explore possibilities of disaster-resilient housing in the same location as there have been no previous instances of flooding,” said Vanessa Peter, founder, Information and Resource Centre for the Deprived Urban Communities.

When TNIE contacted revenue officials, they said only Govindasamy Nagar, and not the substation, encroached upon the canal. “The substation is on temple land. We recently brought in surveyors to accurately measure the substation land and it is in the clear,” said the official. A Tangedco official said the substation was given the go-ahead by the HC.

India Matters


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