Road, yes. Trod, no
Controversy reared its head once
again on the East Coast Road (ECR),
a 700-km-long highway being constructed from Madras to Kanyakumari. Activists of the ECR action
committee (AC) were assaulted by
miscreants at Kadapalkam village
(40 km north of Pondicherry). The
ECRAC is a group of non-governmental organisations demanding the
construction of the highway without
the environmental ruin being
inflicted on the surrounding areas.
The victims of the violence were volunteers of the Tamil Nadu Science
Forum (TNSF) and the Indian
National Trust for Art and Heritage.
The ECR has been hanging fire
since its construction began in 1992.
The ministry of environment and
forests (MEF) had laid down conditions for the project following such
allegations by environmentalists as
the indiscriminate cutting of trees
and the acquisition of homestead
lands with no rehabilitative measures being taken. The MEF stipulated that trees would not be cut,
rehabilitation would be ensured and
no new hotels or factories would be
allowed on the sea-ward side of the
road. But despite these conditions
violations continued unabated and
in September 1995, the MEF issued a
suspension order and constituted an
According to the TNSF, the
attack occurred when the MEF team
was being taken around the sites by
activists of the ECR AC. The activists
were isolated from the rest of the
group and forcibly detained by a
group of people led by a former
member of the legislative assembly,
Kolathur Kothandam. Kothandam
is said to have extracted a statement
from the activists under duress, saying that their objections to the ECR
would be withdrawn. But the incident has only spurred the ECRAC on
its campaign, which demands that
the ECR be built at the earliest,
following the MEF's stipulations.
They have also asked for action to
be taken against Kothandam and
others responsible for the attack.
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