A day after residents of Chennai city began a petition against the Chennai Metro Rail Limited's (CMRL) reported plans to take over Panagal Park in T Nagar to build a subway station, authorities have clarified that there is no such plan in the pipeline. They further alleged that this was a lie spread to malign the image of the CMRL.
Reports dating from June 2018, have constantly quoted officials from the CMRL planning two stations close to Natesan Park and Panagal Park in the stretch between Light House to Poonamallee. As per the CMRL's initial alignment plan, a part of the eight-acre Panagal Park was reportedly supposed to make way for a metro station. Both the parks are also mentioned in the Detailed Comprehensive Project report for Phase Two of the Metro Rail. In the first phase, CMRL had taken over Thiru Vi Ka Park at Shenoy Nagar, Nehru Park in Poonamallee and May Day Park at Chintadripet for construction. In Phase Two, they are expected to fell over 2000 trees to allow a journey across 119 kilometres with 128 stations.
Protesting the decision to reportedly take over parks in this phase, 'Friends of Panagal Park T Nagar' started a petition to the Ministry of Railways on Monday.
"As residents and beneficiaries of Panagal Park, we wish for the space to be protected. As one of few remaining green spaces in this congested commercial locality, many of us have been visiting it for decades. We strongly feel the necessity to stand up for this vital green lung space and the peace and ambience it provides. The CMRL may consider alternate land areas where it can continue its work," read the petition.
Responding to this development, CMRL spokesperson Pandiyan Shanmugam says, "There is no such plan to take over the parks and there never was. These are allegation made by people who do not want the Metro Rail."
The Hindu has quoted a metro rail official as saying that while the plan to take over the park existed in the design stage, there are now efforts to change this and ensure the two spaces are saved.
The T Nagar Residents Association alleges that authorities were forced to make changes after backlash but heave a sigh of relief at the decision.
"It is a victory for the residents who gave been agitating for a long time," says VVS Jayaraman of the association. "These two parks are the only green cover here, that too in a very polluted area. Hence, we were particular that we sustain this. It is important to safeguard existing green cover than build new ones," he adds.