The restoration work of Putheri Lake in Chennai's Pallavaram, where heaps of garbage was dumped overnight, has hit a blockade after a group of people came to the lake and protested, claiming ownership of a part of the "lakebed".
A group of 10 people on January 11, protested at the lake bed and asked the Municipality officials to not carry on with the restoration work as they claimed it was their land. Only earlier that day, the Regional Director of Municipal Administration (RDMA) Mujibur Rahman visited the lake to inspect the restoration work and expand the lake by desilting.
This was after heaps of garbage was dumped into a portion of the lake 'overnight' before which the water in the lake was reportedly clear. Officials said that the RDMA had also contacted the Revenue Department, requesting them to survey the water body.
The protestors produced land-deed documents allegedly obtained by 'illegal' means to the municipality, which said they own 2,182 square feet of the lake area. Since then, the restoration work has been stopped.
After this, the lake activists took up the issue and retrieved the documents of the lake's survey number and the survey number of lake-bed land owned by the persons. As per the documents, the lake survey number is 273, and the land records map also shows the same, showing the huge lake at the survey number of 273.
Similarly, the land-deed documents retrieved from the private persons showed a survey number 273/6, which actually has been carved out from the lake only in July 2020, during the pandemic.
Activists said that till the date nobody had come to claim ownership of this land. "Suddenly now, few persons are coming with land documents which have a sub-classification of the lake's survey number," they said.
"How can the lake's survey number be sub-classified and be given to private persons? The survey number 273 fully belongs to Putheri and it cannot be sub-classified as it is a water body," said David Manohar of Arappor Iyakkam, an anti-corruption NGO.
Manohar raised this issue with the RDMA, who responded, saying that there was little he could do as the persons had a land deed. "The patta has to be cancelled through the revenue department," the RDMA had replied.
The group of persons apart from disrupting the restoration, have also fixed metal poles to classify "their land" and have set up an underground pipe connection, which appears to be a bore-well.
Ravichandran, Revenue Divisional Officer of Tambaram under which the Pallavaram Municipality falls, said the RDO would survey the lake-land again and cancel the land-deed of the private persons if it is found inside the lake.
"We have been following this up and there could be some errors while allotting patta to them. We will survey the lake during the coming working days and patta will be cancelled if the land is found inside the lake," he said.