Residents say they can’t keep vigil if the wall is built and it will pave the way for encroachments.
Residents allege that the wall will make the land and river inaccessible for them and it would pave way for unauthorised encroachments. Speaking to DT Next, V S Sukumar, a senior citizen and a resident of Gandhi Nagar, complained that the narrow patch of land, measuring more than 20,000 sq ft, between the cricket ground and the river has been exploited since 2014 and it has affected the natural flow of the river. He added that the wall will make the situation worse for both the river and residents.
Gandhi Nagar is one of the first residential colonies with 330 plots developed after independence with modern facilities as per the standards then. Buyers had to pay a considerably huge amount to buy plots in the area as it faces the river. Over the years, the river was exploited and turned into a sewage canal to drain the waste water from across the city. The building of the wall is the latest attack on the river, claimed Sukumar.
According to him, the land was handed over to the PWD in 2014 by the then Chennai Collector to build an elevated road to reduce the traffic congestion on the nearby main roads. “A barbed fencing was erected to separate the cricket ground from the no man’s land. Also, they had increased the height of the land to pave roads. However, the project was dropped due to protests by environmentalists,” said Sukumar. In 2015, a laser show was organised at the spot as part of the Global Investors’ Meet and the mound was expanded to turn it into a gallery for the audience. “It affected the river and rowing events such as Regatta could not be conducted since then. Similarly, fishermen also could not fish in the area,” he said.
The barbed fencing was enough to prevent people from entering into the no man’s land and residents of Gandhi Nagar themselves kept a vigil to check if there are any illegal activities in the plot. “But now a wall is being constructed to completely block the view, so we do not know what is happening on the other side,” said Sukumar. “Now, the land was dug 30 feet deep to erect the ready-made wall and it does not look like to have been built to protect the river,” he added.
Residents said they had given multiple petitions to various departments and the Collector but they have not yielded any response. CRRT, which is building the wall, said that they were not authorised to speak about the wall. Its member-secretary and Managing Director of Tamil Nadu Urban Infrastructure Financial Services Ltd, Kakarla Usha, was not available for comment.