There are say over 20 illegal buildings functioning without approval from Hill Area Conservation Authority (HACA), but pending action from the concerned departments. The Directorate of Town and Country Planning (DTCP) and Local Planning Authority (LPA) had issued lock and seal notices to these buildings several years ago.
Yet, there has been no progress as many institutions have moved Court and a few have appealed to the DTCP in Chennai against their closure. Information sourced through RTI by wildlife activist N Siva revealed the presence of around 24 illegal buildings, of which a major chunk constitutes schools and colleges, while there is also a religious centre, resort, two ayurvedic hospitals, theme park, a major township and a cement manufacturing unit in Coimbatore.
“Officials are refusing to act mainly due to political interference. After a long drawn legal battle, a private college and a real estate unit were shut down in 2014. Thereafter, the stalemate continues for reasons known to all,” says N Siva, who is crusading against illegal occupants in the jungles.
In The Nilgiris, a total of 38 resorts were sealed so far, based on the orders of the Supreme Court for running on the migratory pathway of elephants. Encroachment of forest areas has, in a never before trend, is resulting in frequent deaths of tribals in elephant attacks.
“Just in the last five years, as many as 13 tribals died in elephant attacks in areas such as Siruvani, Poondi and Narasipuram areas that fall under the conflict-prone Boluvampatty forest range alone.
Tribals getting killed in elephant attacks was a rarity until a decade ago,” said V Loganathan, president of Vellingiri Hill Tribal Protection Society.
The tribal association has moved Public Interest Litigations (PIL) against a Christian education institution and a Hindu religious centre for encroaching upon the elephant pathway in the forest cover.
“In forests, elephants go by a fixed traditional pathway. Tribals wouldn’t come in their way and even if we have a chance encounter, they move away without causing a disturbance. With their migratory pathways getting blocked, the jumbos wander around clueless resulting in frequent conflicts.
Their behaviour to has gone for a change as the gentle jumbos now tend to see every human being as an ‘enemy’ as they are subjected to maximum harassment by people,” said Loganathan.
In a petition to District Collector TN Hariharan recently the members of Tamil Nadu Vivasayigal Sangam (non-political) have also sought to remove illegal buildings mushroomed obstructing the pathway of elephants to prevent their straying and destruction of farms.
The Coimbatore district, with about 2,627 sq km of forest cover, enjoys maximum elephant concentration, as the elephants prefer the locality for in-breeding. When queried, C Mathivanan,Deputy Director, Coimbatore Region, Directorate of Town and Country Planning (DTCP) said that efforts would be taken to shut down building found illegally operating in the migratory pathway of elephants in Coimbatore district.
“In Nilgiris, the illegal resorts have been sealed. A similar action would soon be initiated in Coimbatore,” he said.
Total area of forest cover in Coimbatore 2,627 sq km
- The Coimbatore forest division is part of The Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve (NBR)
- Estimated elephant population in the division is 250-300 during September-December (offseason)
- Surges to over 600 in January-August (peak migratory season)
Human deaths in elephant attacks in Coimbatore forest division 80 persons
(from 2011 to October 2017)
Total number of illegal buildings in forest cover around 24
Educational institutions (schools and colleges) 15
- llegal buildings also comprise a religious centre, resort, Ayurvedic hospital, theme park and a real estate property
Important elephant corridors in Coimbatore Forest Division
1) Kalkothi (Boluvampatty Range) to Walayar (Coimbatore Range)
2) Anaikatti- Veerapandi Corridor
3) Kallar- Jaccanari Corridor
4) Marudamalai-Thanikandy corridor