The alleged commercial exploitation of the Kodaikanal lake by the Kodaikanal Boat and Rowing Club was brought into sharp focus on Monday, following a petition to the Madras High Court from a local NGO, which pointed out that the establishment's lease for use of the lake had expired in August. Following this, the Madurai bench of the Madras High Court had sought a response from the state government on the case.
And while a reply is likely to be filed later this week, the standing counsel for the Kodaikanal Municipal Corporation has confirmed to TNM that the club does not have the required licence to run boating and rowing services in the lake.
"The Municipal Commissioner's stand is that the club does not have the licence to continue its operations. It's lease expired on August 31 and there has been no move yet to give them another licence," says advocate TS Mohamed Mohideen, standing counsel for Kodaikanal municipality.
Despite this however, they continue to operate over 150 boats in the lake according to the petitioner S Arockiasamy, of the Kodai Smile Environment and People's Welfare development Trust.
The club was founded in 1890 by the British and in 1921, it was allotted 4 cents of land and given a lease period of 49 years for Rs 8 per year. In 1970, the lease was renewed for another 49 years for 8 cents but the amount was not changed. And by this calculation, the lease for the club ended in August 2019.
The lawyer for the NGO, Abul Kalaam Azad further tells TNM that an RTI has revealed that the club has constructions in over 20 cents of land.
"According to the RTI, they have constructed on over 9000 sqm of land. The math just doesn't add up. In one cent you can only construct on 436 sq. ft," he tells TNM.
The petition asks that a public auction be conducted for commercial use of the lake, which will help augment the civic body's revenue.
"This money can then be used for betterment of the town," says the advocate.