2 June 2017

May 2017: Judgement on Arunachala Girivalam Expansion

On Tuesday 30 May, 2017, The National Green Tribunal in judgement of the ‘Girivalam’ road-widening project, concluded that the expansion proposal cannot be deemed illegal or against the preservation of nature. 

However, the Tribunal imposed certain conditions, reducing the width of the proposed roads and forbidding the felling of trees in order to preserve the sanctity and ecology of the historical Arunachala Hill in Tiruvannamalai district. In the 55-page judgment, the Bench comprising Justice P Jyothimani and expert member P S Rao asserted that in the light of a multi-fold increase in the number of devotees thronging the 14-km Girivalam route, the District administration, State government and police must ensure the safety of pilgrims, especially on crowded days like ‘Karthigai Deepam’. 

“This historical Girivalam route must be developed in a proper manner for the benefit of devotees to meet any eventuality,” the Bench said, and stressed that such development should not be at the cost of environment.

In this respect, the Tribunal has turned down the move to cut trees—347 trees were initially proposed to be cut, which was later reduced to 218 and then finally to 125 trees. The expert committee appointed by the NGT had submitted the final report where felling of only one Tamarind tree was allowed in stretch one (Pondy-Krishnagiri road), but even that was struck down by the Tribunal. 

The 14-km Girivalam path is divided into five stretches, of which considerable area of two stretchesone and fivefalls in the Tiruvannamalai municipality limits. The other three stretches 2, 3 and 4 are ecologically sensitive areas, especially the two-km Hill Round Road (stretch 2) that runs along Sonagiri forest. 

A government pleader said the Tribunal has addressed all the concerns while allowing the case to come to a logical conclusion. 

Highlights of Tribunal Judgement 

2.5 m pavements to be maintained properly on both sides on Chengam road. Laxmi tree not to be cut. 

Sonagiri forest shall not be disturbed. 

2m instead of 6m new paver block pavement on the Hill side from Chengam-Girivalam Road Junction up to Anna Arch. 

No trees to be cut. No concrete around trees for 1m radius. 

Water bodies, Water flow, Paadhams, Temples, etc not to be disturbed. 

No new drains from Chengam-Girivalam Road Junction up to Abhaya Mandapam, except for 500m Adiannamalai village stretch. 

Manikkavacakar Temple not to be disturbed. But Compound wall (surrounding Temple) order to be carefully removed. 

Bio-diversity to be preserved. More trees to be planted. 

For archival purposes, I propose uploading the full Judgement on my website Arunachala Samudra shortly.

Photographs below of devotees performing Girivalam during the 2017 Chitra Pournami. 

Starting Girivalam at Arunachaleswarar Temple
Proceeding through Town

On Chengam Road outside Shantimalai Gift Shop

Stopping for refreshing Nungu near Tiruvannamalai Arts College


Anonymous said...

Is this a good thing?

Meenakshi Ammal said...

To be honest with you, really don't think this is going to make that much difference. Greed and aggrandizement has taken over and in the long run, that will be the deciding factor. Its so sad that we are living in such an age.