Above the law: Forest head office in Chennai does not care about regulations | Chennai News

The new State Forestry Department headquarters built at a cost of Rs 30crore at Velachery, on land adjoining Guindy National Park, is breaking all the rules in the department’s own book, an internal investigation has found.

CHENNAI: The new state forest department headquarters built at a cost of Rs 30crore at Velachery, on land adjoining Guindy National Park, is breaking all the rules in the department’s own book, an internal investigation has found.
The investigation by the department’s vigilance officer also revealed that Rs 7 crore had been siphoned off during the construction of the five-storey 21,477 square foot building between 2019 and 2021.
Violating the Forest Department’s own standards, it was built within the park’s buffer zone, which is a reserve forest. And untreated sewage from the building will flow directly into Guindy National Park. When TOI visited the building on Friday, an investigation was underway and Gunnery Officer Saravanan was being questioned.
He told TOI, however, that no rules were broken and the building was still under construction. However, multiple sources confirmed that a report submitted by Forest Vigilance Officer Mita Banerjee detailed how the money was misappropriated. Banerjee was unavailable for comment.
The Chennai District Forest Officer and Chennai Forest Conservator confirmed an investigation was underway, but declined to comment further. “Any construction, especially a commercial building, near a forest reserve in the country requires a multitude of permits from the forest department and building permits from other government departments. But what if the offender is the Forest Department itself,” asked Satheesh, a city-based conservationist.
When asked by RTI about the absence of a sewage treatment plant, the forestry department replied that it had taken the “necessary” provisions. TOI has photographs of sewage lines discharging directly into Guindy National Park, in violation of wildlife protection and various other forest conservation laws.
The building also has no Metrowater hookups for sewage or potable water supply. “The park has two huge lakes and a channel and a drainage system that carries water into the Adyar River. Leaving untreated sewage in the park will endanger wildlife and also violate TNPCB standards,” said Vetriselvan, advocate for Poovulagin Nanbargal, an NGO based in the city.
“The building has not obtained CMDA approval for construction. Since this is a commercial building, it is supposed to receive a high voltage electrical connection. It was not researched. The building has not received permits from the fire and security department for its elevators. Also, it has a low shrinkage area. And one of the major breaches is that he did not get a NoC from the highway department, which had reserved this land for a future road expansion project,” Vetriselvan added.
The investigation started after the building completion certificate was not provided by the Chennai Metropolitan Development Agency (CMDA) as there were several building violations. A whistleblower had also written to the department about the violations.
The building, whose foundation stone was laid in 2019 by Edappadi K Palaniswami as Chief Minister, remains unoccupied. The headquarters of the forest department is still in the Panagal building in Saidapet.

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