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 enquiry committee.
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is said to have extracted a statement from the activists under duress, saying that their objections to the ECR would be withdrawn.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.
We are a voice to you; you have been a support to us. Together we build journalism that is independent, credible and fearless. You can further help us by making a donation. This will mean a lot for our ability to bring you news, perspectives and analysis from the ground so that we can make change together.
Comments are moderated and will be published only after the site moderator’s approval. Please use a genuine email ID and provide your name. Selected comments may also be used in the ‘Letters’ section of the Down To Earth print edition.