Monday, March 19, 2012

News Article: Land for parks encroached in Sittalapakkam

D Madhavan, TNN Mar 15, 2012, 04.40AM IST
Tags: tnhb|Sittalapakkam|Parks| land

CHENNAI: The residents of the Tamil Nadu Housing Board (TNHB) colony in Sittalapakkam, 20km from Chennai, are unhappy. Twenty-one open plots of land in the colony, measuring 9,500.91 sq m and earmarked for being developed as parks or playgrounds, have been encroached upon.

While the residents say several illegal structures, including makeshift temples, have come up on each of the plots and that their appeals to the authorities have been in vain, Sittalapakkam village panchayat officials express helplessness and cite staff shortage, among other reasons, for their inaction. In this regard, hearing on a writ petition on behalf of the residents that was to come up in the Madras HC on Wednesday, has been put off to Friday. For hundreds of citizens like Antony Raj, 59, who daily took his grandson to one such plot to play while he chatted with friends, these spaces were heaven. Not any more.

"After school hours, a large number of children would dot the open space with all sorts of play equipment. It was fun to watch them playing," said K Velmurugan, among the first settlers in the colony. In 1996, the TNHB developed a "neighbourhood scheme" for different income groups at Sittalapakkam, built 2,064 houses and 116 commercial establishments on 29 acres and divided them into four blocks.

A total of 21 open spaces were earmarked for parks and playgrounds. As per the original plan, the open spaces cannot be exchanged for other plots and are non-marketable. "Based on representations from residents, we have taken up the issue in the high court because encroachments have become a major problem, especially in developing areas," said advocate M Antony Selvaraj. The residents approached the local MLA and MP and the district collector but the problem remained. They also petitioned the TNHB which on February 22 said its officials had found encroachments and its removal of encroachments should be done by the local body.

© 2012 Bennett, Coleman & Co. Ltd. All rights reserved

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