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Encroachments on the Waterbodies in Tamil Nadu

Tamil Nadu has many legal provisions to protect its waterbodies. However, encroachment on waterbodies is rampant and many encroachers are resorting to violence to silence those who oppose them. Recurrent droughts in the state necessitate that these waterbodies be restored and protected, and encroachments are removed.

Recurrent droughts in Tamil Nadu have prompted initiatives for saving and deepening of surface waterbodies to increase their storage levels. However, such efforts get marred by a strong presence of land-grabbers, who do not hesitate even from killing. Attacking, implicating in false cases, harassing, frequent transfers, etc, of the upright officials, informants, social wor­kers, activists, and journalists who ­expose encroachments of the common property resources (CPRs), including ­waterbodies, have become common, while perpetrators are protected and supported. It suggests a strong nexus ­between land-grabbers, local leaders, bureaucrats, and political representatives. Tamil Nadu has 41,127 tanks. Acc­ording to an estimate, the area irrigated by these tanks has reduced from 9.36 lakh hectares (ha) in 1960–61 to 4.38 lakh ha in 2015–16 (Narayanamoorthy and Alli 2018). One of the factors attributed to this loss is the encroachment of the waterbodies.

Increasing industrialisation, urbanisation, and a market-driven economy, all ­result in such a drive for unlawfully ­encroaching large tracts of public land, mainly for real estate and cultivation purposes. We can understand this process through one instance in Mudalaipatti village of Kulithalai taluk from Karur district close to the Kaveri ayacut area (the area served by an irrigation project such as a canal, dam or a tank). Over the years, around 50 villagers slowly encroached on 39 acres of a water-retaining tank bed covering 198 acres. Owing to poor rainfall for many years, the village tank did not fill fully and ­became an easy target for local villagers to encroach upon to grow banana, coconut, oilseeds, pulses, and flowers. A few village elders revealed that this tank was endowed with rich flora and fauna of reed, nutgrass, edible tubers, fish, crab, and snail, and after encroachment, these disappeared. If the tank is filled,1 in addition to Mudalaipatti, the groundwater table in the surrounding six villages—Posampatti, Adavathur, Ettarai, Mullikarumbur, Palayam, and Inampuliyur—will be recharged.

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Updated On : 16th Jun, 2020

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