11 November 2016

National Green Tribunal approves conditional work on Girivalam path

[The below posting gives information about the current situation of the widening of the Arunachala Girivalam Pathway. The information is abridged from postings in The Indian Express and The Hindu]. 

As the 2016 Karthigai Deepam Festival begins at the end of this month, the National Green Tribunal on Tuesday November 8, 2016 passed an interim order permitting ‘conditional’ works to be conducted by the Highway Department which do not involve the further cutting of any trees. 

The National Green Tribunal Bench has partly accepted the report of the two-member Committee but its recommendations in connection with tree felling and road widening have been set aside. 

The Bench has banned asphalting of the right side of the girivalam road on stretch 1, which faces the sacred hill, but has allowed widening on the left side, which faces the town. The interim order states, “Install a pavement and demarcate it exclusively for pedestrians. The left side can be widened, subject to the condition that local residents are given space to walk around.” 

The Highway Department has been permitted to continue road improvement works on stretch 5 as per the original proposal since the area is already fully urbanised. The other three stretches — 2, 3 and 4 — are ecologically sensitive areas on which the Highway Department officials had previously proposed cutting 65 trees. 

The Committee told the Tribunal, having been informed about the presence of certain endangered species along the road, that further scrutiny is required to find alternatives to widening the road. 

The National Green Tribunal Bench has allowed the Highway Department to carry out a few urgent works on stretches 2 and 3. This includes that the cement foundation laid in the drainage channel which was excavated on the right side of stretch 2 be removed and filled to safeguard trees and pilgrims. 

On stretch 3, the compound wall of Manikavasagar Temple, which was encroaching the road, has been ordered to be removed. Based upon the Committee’s recommendations, the Temple authorities have agreed to this proposal. 

National Green Tribunal Recommendations: 

Encroachments to be removed:  The removal of encroachments along all stretches of the Girivalam Roadway. However, permission should be given to vendors during the festive season as long as it does not affect the movement of pedestrians 

Lighting:  LED lights to be placed at intervals on the whole of the 14 km Girivalam Roadway. 

Protection of water bodies: The interim order says that no water body should be affected under the guise of development or anything else. No culverts should be damaged by anyone, including the District Administration 

Religious Structures to be preserved: Temples and other religious structures along the Girivalam path should be protected. All mechanisms to safeguard them should be provided 

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Importance of retaining Arunachala’s traditional water system 

Mr. V.R. Visweswaran, a water resource expert, recently visited Tiruvannamalai to assess the kind of impact the Girivalam path widening project may have on local water systems. He explained Arunachala has a structural feature of fissures and joints in archean rock formation that allows natural recharge and flow of rain water. 

Water flowing from Hill on rainy season

The rain water flows into streams on all sides of the pyramidal slopes of the Hill and thereupon fills innumerable tanks, ponds and theerthams around the hill. The water ultimately reaches irrigation tanks in the plains and benefits farmers while recharging the water table en route. 

The rulers of the past who had great knowledge of the Hill’s hydraulic structure, provided storage for the waters flowing from it. Mr. Visweswaran counselled that the hydraulic structures and courses of flow should not be disturbed or altered and that altering the water course would affect the recharge of ground water and water available for irrigation. He said,“Tiruvannamalai is a region that survives with low rainfall and every drop of water is important here. Hence preserving water via harvesting structures constructed brilliantly centuries ago is important.” 

Ayyankulam Tank in centre of Tiruvannamalai

Any road project should be executed after studying the hydraulic structure of the area and water flows. Utmost care should be taken not to divert or destroy water courses. Raising road levels indiscriminately would affect water flows. When asked about the plans of the Highway Department to dig new drainage, he said “any new channel, drainage and diversion of original courses without a scientific approach will result in water flowing into wrong areas which have no fissures for water to percolate.” 


Anonymous said...

The committee forgot to:

1. Ban all roadside vendors on festival days
2. Ban all loudspeakers other than the Arunachaleswarar Temple speakers playing the chant
3. banning traffic on the girivalam road - any day, any time, any where. The girivalam path should be only for people walking - any day, any time.
If they can accomplish this, then they have done their job. Otherwise they have been a waste of tax payer money.

Meenakshi Ammal said...

Agree that many restrictions should be in place ensuring that Arunachala and the girivalam pathway are maintained with reverence and purity. But as to the points you specify . . . we will have to wait and see.

Would mention that if the Venkateshwara Temple, Tirupati (the busiest and richest Temple in the world) are able to maintain reverence, cleanliness, order and success -- there is absolutely no reason that Tiruvannamalai (which has a small number of visiting devotees in comparison with Tirupati) . . . should fall so short on all essential points.

Anonymous said...

That's right! If people want to shop, they will go to the bazaar. Besides, whilst doing Girivalam, we don't want to be distracted with loud speakers blasting out the price of various goods or some music. We want to be focussed on Arunachala. I hope the Respected judge is reading this. :-)

Meenakshi Ammal said...

Agree loud speakers on the girivalam route (and also inside the Big Temple) are inappropriate, noise polluting and disrespectful. But until Tiruvannamalai starts taking its role as guardian of the most important Shiva Stalam in the world seriously . . . nothing is going to change. It would be ideal if the people in charge exhibited approached the Tirupati organisation for their help and support to create and maintaining a reverent, clean and calm infrastructure throughout Tiruvannamalai.