Two months after a Chennai based activist Antony Rubin approached the National Green Tribunal over the shocking number of deer and blackbuck deaths in IIT Madras during the Saarang and Shaastra festivals, the institute has finally responded. The management has dismissed the demand for the cultural events to be banned and claimed that that all measures are taken to ensure that the fauna is not affected.
An RTI filed earlier this year showed that 220 deer and 8 blackbucks had died in the campus between 2014 and 2016 alone. In addition to this, The Fifth Estate, an online website run by students of IIT Madras reported that 21 deer had died and three were injured in January 2014 when the cultural events were taking place. Following this, the activist demanded that the festivals be banned in order to preserve the wildlife in the campus.
IIT-M in its response to the NGT has said that the applicant's claim about the impact of the cultural events is highly exaggerated. "The impact of the events including decibel levels, speed driving, etc are carefully monitored and necessary corrective action is taken immediately. For example, this year during these events, two wheelers were parked at the main gate itself. In the recent Saarang festival, more than 5000 vehicles were parked at the main gate itself to avoid traffic congestion and to protect the safety of the wildlife in the campus, signboards were displayed in prominent places."
Antony Rubin who took the matter up with the NGT, however, dismisses the claim. "It is well-known that they take no such measures. In fact even when there are no cultural events, the waste management is sub-par. Videos and photos in the last two weeks following the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board's visit to the campus show that there is plastic waste everywhere and these animals are exposed to this on a daily basis," he explains.
IIT Madras, however, claims that they have an efficient process for solid waste management in place and have blamed the increasing number of stray dogs in the campus for the death of the animals.
“Recently there has been several reported cases of deer deaths caused primarily due to stray dog bites in the campus. The deer deaths due to dogs has gone up because of the increase in population of dogs," claims the institute.
The activist and complainant allege that this is merely an excuse. "Deer are much faster than dogs and there is no way canines can chase them down. The only way they can possibly fall victim is if they are already sick due to the consumption of plastic or if their routes of escape are blocked by buildings. In either case the dogs are just scavengers," he explains.
And sure enough, a report submitted by the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board to the NGT stated that IIT-Madras did not obtain consent from them for the buildings constructed on the campus since September 2006. The Consent to Establish (CTE) from the TNPCB is reportedly mandatory since the campus is located in an ecologically sensitive area.
According to reports, the reply filed by Romalt Terric Pinto, Chennai district’s environmental engineer, stated that IIT-M constructed 10 buildings and a few more are under construction. The total built-up area that does not have TNPCB’s approval is 3,29,676.12 square metres, as per the TNPCB's submission.
The institute’s response to this alarming allegation, however, is vague and non-committal. "Action has already been taken to apply for CTE and CMDA approval is awaited for inclusion of buildings in IIT Madras constructed after 2006."