The Madras High Court on Wednesday restrained the Tamil Nadu government from going ahead with its proposal to construct over 4,500 slum clearance board houses in the foothills of Velliangiri Hills in Coimbatore.
A bench comprising Justice S Manikumar and Justice Subramonium Prasad made it clear that authorities shall not proceed with any earth work or construction activities.
It granted the interim injunction valid till further orders on a public interest litigation (PIL) by Velliangiri Hills Tribal Protection Society opposing any constructions by altering the landscape of the area.
After going through the submissions made by Additional Advocate General S R Rajagopal and petitioner's counsel M Purushothaman, the bench said there was an order from the Coimbatore Local Planning Authority, the competent authority under the Town and Country Planning Act, for change of land use from industrial to residential in the area.
"...we are of the view that whatever has been done in the aforesaid areas should not be allowed to proceed, except without permission of the competent authorities," it said.
The petitioner submitted the Tamil Nadu Slum Clearance Board proposed to construct over 4,500 houses in Pooluvapatti, Thenkarai, Alanthurai and Perur Chettipalayam villages, which come under the Hill Area Conservation Authority.
The petitioner claimed that there was a change in the peaceful forest atmosphere because of the "unauthorised constructions" and ten tribal people had lost their lives in the Velliangiri Hills in the past two years due to man-animal conflict.
A counter affidavit filed by the district forest officer has said the reasons for man-animal conflict in Coimbatore forest division were increase in buildings, industrial and agricultural activities close to the forests.
Particularly agricultural activities resulted in more number of wells being dug, which led to reduction in sub-soil moisture and consequent drying up of springs and streams in the forests.
Because of this, elephants come out of the forests and stray into nearby the agricultural fields in search of water, it said.
The counter affidavit said a no objection certificate was given to the Tamil Nadu Slum Clearance Board with certain conditions, including no cultivation attracting elephants should be allowed and elephant-proof trenches should be dug up along the extreme boundary of the residential blocks.
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