29 July 2016

Widening Arunachala Girivalam Path: July 29, 2016

The below is an abridged version of a article that appears today in a National Newspaper about the decision which has now been taken regarding the widening of the Arunachala Girivalam Path. To read the unabridged version, go to this link here

Girivalam roadway Outside Rajarajeshwari Temple 2009


The widening of the Girivalam at Arunachala, which has been mired in controversy over the felling of trees, is is to be reviewed by an expert panel, headed by a retired IFS officer. 

Though locals and activists pressed for cancelling the work that would entail cutting 125 full-grown trees, the southern bench of National Green Tribunal declined, while assuring them to protect the green cover in the hills. 

After considering the concerns expressed by local villagers during the hearing of a petition filed by S Krishna Kumar, the bench comprising judicial member P Jyothimani and expert member PS Rao observed that the government was correct on widening the Girivalam path. 

“Yes, so far no untoward incident was reported. But, we can’t wait for a stampede to happen, which we see often in shrines in North India. Considering the massive crowds witnessed especially during every full moon night and during ‘Karthigai Deepam Mahotsavam’, there is a need to widen the pathway. The project can’t be stalled,” justice Jyothimani said categorically. 

However, the expert committee, yet to be appointed, would conduct a case by case study of these 125 trees so as to ensure that not a single tree is cut unnecessarily. “No tree will be allowed to be felled in the Sonagiri forest area, which is an ecologically sensitive belt in the entire 14-km stretch,” the bench assured. 

According to the report submitted by Tiruvanamalai District Collector earlier, lakhs of pilgrims undertake circumambulation around the 14-km path of the famed Arunachaleswarar temple. The existing path was inadequate to accommodate the sea of devotees, making the widening of the path necessary. This would also facilitate movement of emergency vehicles. 

The tribunal on Thursday (July 28, 2016) said Girivalam should have a dedicated lane for emergency vehicles like ambulances especially during peak season. The expert panel will be appointed during the next hearing on August 17. 

Meanwhile, the Highways Department, executing the project, sought modification in the interim stay passed by the National Green Tribunal. The Highways Department have been assured that no tree would be felled in the Sonagiri forest area, which forms 5.2 km out of total 14 km. Further they have requested that: 

“Let the tribunal decide related to works in Sonagiri forest area, but we request the activists and the Court not to stall the work in the remaining 9 km. The stay order has hampered work in the entire 14 km, which is leading to unnecessary cost escalations,” he said. 

The proposed expansion is divided into five works. Pondy-Krishnagiri Road, Sonagiri forest area, Hill round road, Kanji road and Anna arch road. The majority of widening has been already carried out except in the Sonagiri forest area. 

Local activists have promised that a separate census with the help of locals will occur on the number of trees felled and submit it before the Tribunal at the next hearing. They remarked: 

“Every tree is part of a 600-year-old heritage attached to the sacred hill. Many are several hundred years old. To our estimate, 50 trees are already cut. The footpath that the contractors are laying is unscientific covering the root area, harming growth of the trees. If you cut a 300-year-old banyan tree that can shelter 50 pilgrims and compensate with 10 saplings, what purpose will it serve?” 


Divya said...

It is a hard problem when new crowds of tourists push into the land and want everything cleared for their convenience. What is to be done? One does not want a dangerous situation of crushed pilgrims either!

Anonymous said...

Regulate entry as is being done in Tirupati and Vaishno Devi. The sanctum in those temples is protected from the noise. In this case they will have to protect the mountain from all the noise.

Meenakshi Ammal said...

Tirupati maintain their Temple and surrounds beautifully. I've always thought it would be great to have a Trust established here with that calibre of person, to maintain our Hill, Temple(s) and the girivalam roadway.

A friend of mine visited Tiruvannamalai 12 years ago to check the possibility of establishing a large and complex Vedic organisation at this place. He decided that Pondicherry and Auroville to be more suitable and went ahead there. His organisation is now very successful and does great service to the people and area at that place.

After many years he recently returned to Tiruvannamalai and could not believe how filthy this place has become. I am ashamed to admit it, but its true. The town and all around the girivalam roadway look like a dumpsite. Filth, rubbish and plastic everywhere and all the time. Regular cleanups don't seem to make any kind of improvement at all.

We really need to get a grip on this.

Anonymous said...

I hope your friend hasn't given up on Tiruvannamalai. We must do something soon. Is he able to suggest next steps?

Here is what the Prime Minister said about trees


Divya said...

Very unfortunate about the unclean conditions in Tiru! Recently there was an article in the newspaper about Puttaparthi being overrun with wild pigs, due to all the garbage around. Looks like all the spiritual aspirants are busy meditating instead of meeting together to come up with solutions. Have you heard about the "Ugly Indian" movement? (Awful name, but they are doing wonderful work inspiring citizens to clean up their localities.)

Meenakshi Ammal said...

To anonymous:

I think a great first step keeping Tiruvannamalai clean would be to TOTALLY BAN ALL PLASTIC BAGS from the town. Not only to ban plastic, but also to vigorously enforce the ban.

On full moon nights even charities and religious organisations giving out free foods, do so in plastic and tetrapacks . . . receipe for filth and disaster in the area after the crowds have gone. And done't even get me started on the dangers to wild life from all that nasty plastic lying around.

Divya will check out the "Ugly Indian" movement and let you know my thoughts . . . but to begin with they could have come up with a more postive, inspirational name for the movement.

Anonymous said...

I don't think it is "Ugly Indian" although I have heard such slurs in the West. ..... It is called "swach Bharat" or "Clean India".. It is Prime Minister Modi's project and on the lines of a fund raiser in the west, each person suggests three people they know to do a clean up near where they live. But Tiruvannamalai needs a complete ban on people entering until it is cleaned up and then all crowds should be regulated on the lines of Tirupati and Vaishnoo Devi.

Meenakshi Ammal said...

I had a look at the website and it seems to be of Indian origin. I don't like the name . . . and can only think that the point of it is to shame us into remedial action.

Divya said...

The Ugly Indian movement, which has been around for many years, is different from Modi's initiative. The Facebook page has many frequent updates telling stories of locals cleaning up certain areas, with before and after pics. For instance in Bangalore hundreds of areas have been permanently cleaned up. https://www.facebook.com/TheUGLYIndianNITW/photos

Haripriya Suresh said...

The best solution is to have 3 level roads (just like in foot bal and cricket stadiums where spectators sit). The current road is enough for this. In the current road on the left side of that just take 20 feet wide (with iron and steel rods) construct a strong 2 or 3 level platforms. So with this it will be equiavalent to 4 roads. It is also good things as the walkers can have the view of the hill without any interupption as they are walking at different levels. The current road can still be used for vehicles without interrpution. Please tell this solution to collector and others as soon as possible.

Haripriya Suresh said...

The best solution is to have multiple level pavements (platforms) at the left side of the road (when you in the direction of girivalam). In the present road just take 10 feet wide (using iron and steel and concret) construct a lifted platforms and this can be at level 1 , level 2 and level 3. It is like having different floors at a foot bal stadium, or in a multi level car parking. With this the devotees can have the view of the hill as they will be having at different levels. Also the ground floor (the current road can be used for vehicles and other stuffs). At some places steps to get down to the ground floor. With this it will be equivalent to having four roads (as we are using vertical space) and it will reduce the congestion. Kindly inform this quickly to the collector and the other authorities as quick as possible