PWD tightens grip on commercial establishments
Tightening its grip on commercial establishments, the Public Works Department (PWD) on Saturday brought down a part of Gurudev motors building at Koyambedu for allegedly encroaching on Cooum river.
“75 per cent work is over, remaining parts of the automobile dealer building that have been encroached will be removed on Monday,” a PWD official said. According to the official, parts of around 15 commercial establishments, found to encroach on Cooum’s right of way, have been removed so far.
The Gurudev motors building is near Shan Royal hotel, that has also allegedly encroached about 40 feet upon Cooum banks. However, when PWD officials tried to remove the encroached part of the building in September last year, they ran into stiff opposition from the hotel owners and was eventually left untouched. On the other hand, the hotel management had denied the allegations, saying that the laundry unit, that is said to be encroached was not a part of their property.
The PWD, had recently, decided to crackdown on commercial establishments amidst allegations that only slum dwellers were being removed for Cooum restoration project while larger private establishments escaped unscathed.
Activists alleged that the Madras High Court had, late last year, ordered expediting the process of evicting 55,000 ‘encroachers’, mainly in informal settlements while it made no mention of larger encroachments.
As far as slum settlements were concerned, according to PWD officials, around 4,000 of the 12,000 households categorised under ‘objectionable settlements’ have been removed in the stretch between Padi and Napier bridge for Cooum river restoration project.
From having thousands of waterbodies of varying sizes, Chennai, Tiruvallur and Kancheepuram district, that form Chennai city, has seen the number reduce drastically over the years, after massive urbanisation kicked in and real estate boomed.
To protect what is left, the boundaries of waterbodies have to be demarcated. The onus to protect the lakes and demarcate their boundaries lie with the revenue department. Once that is done, then it becomes the sole responsibility of PWD to protect waterbodies, says a PWD official.
It is learnt that commercial buildings are being brought down once the boundary is demarcated by revenue department., “We are now bringing down commercial encroachents following instructions of Chief Minister,” said Public Works Department Chief engineer (Chennai), water resources department, Murugu Subramanian.
He refused to give list of commecial establishments that are under PWD scanner. “We won’t think twice on taking action against any commercial building which has encroached the water body once the boundary has been demarcated,” he said.
A top revenue official said action against encroachments on water bodies had been taken after the court summoned the district Collectors and asked them to remove the encroachments. Even major investment projects which fell under water bodies had been denied required approvals, the official said.
The move to remove encroachments was taken after the 2015 floods. Most existing waterways, reservoirs and tanks are silted and their flow channels and banks are obstructed with encroachments and structures, say officials. The parameters for safeguarding waterways and water bodies from undesirable developments are incorporated in the Development Regulations, but then it is amended every now and then with no official claiming responsibility.