Activist approaches NGT to shift Saarang, Shaastra fest out of IIT after RTI reveals 220 deer, 8 blackbucks died in three years.

Shift Saarang out of IIT-M campus Activist moves NGT with shocking data on wildlife deathsPic courtesy- IIT Saarang Twitter ac
news Environment Monday, May 22, 2017 - 14:00

In what may come as a shock to the city's residents and wildlife enthusiasts, the Indian Institute of Technology - Madras (IIT-M) has seen the death of 220 deer and 8 blackbucks between 2014 and 2016 alone.  The activist who accessed this information through an RTI has approached the National Green Tribunal seeking IIT-M’s biggest festivals – Saarang and Shaastra be shifted out of the campus.

There have in the past been sporadic reports of the death of deer and blackbucks in the campus. But with no clear picture on the number of such deaths available, animal activist Antony Rubin decided to opt for the RTI route. 

The reply to his queries dated April 6, arrived in the first week of May. "It was quite shocking. 220 deer and 8 blackbucks had died between 2014 and 2016 but nobody has even made a noise about it. As far as cause of deaths are concerned, only one death has been attributed to an accident," he says.

Antony's query regarding the measures recommended by the forest department to reduce fatalities came back with the reply - 'No documents'. "I mulled over what to do next for sometime before deciding to take the case to the National Green Tribunal," he explains. 

In his application to the National Green Tribunal, which has been admitted now, Antony has asked for a complete ban on non-recyclable plastics in the IIT campus, shift Shaastra, Saarang and other events which draw a large crowd outside IIT-M and minimise the number of vehicles. In the petition marked the State of Tamil Nadu, IIT-M, Greater Chennai Corporation, Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board and the Tamil Nadu Forest Department, he has also highlighted the “Various negligent human activities including improper disposal of solid waste, speeding vehicles within IIT-M.”

Antony has specifically mentioned Saarang, IIT-M's yearly cultural fest and said that it adds severe stress on the fragile ecosystem. The activist quotes an article that appeared in IIT-M’s inhouse newspaper ‘The Fifth Estate’ on November 8, 2014, which said that “about 21 deer have died and three injured in January 2014 alone – the month when the student fests Shaastra and Saarang are organized. Of these, at least two are endangered blackbuck, and one is a fawn.”

The authors of the article in The Fifth Estate also wrote that while the cause for such deaths were attributed to accidents, dog attacks and natural, the stress caused by noise pollution from the fests could also cause casualties.     

Three spotted deer were allegedly hit by speeding vehicles on the last day of the fest in 2011. "Saarang is becoming bigger every year and with the fest, the vehicular traffic within the campus increases. Sources within the campus have told me that four deer die every time the fest is held. Moreover, there is a huge amount of plastic waste left behind every year. This littering has to be stopped," the activist says.

According to past reports, postmortems of several deer led to the discovery of sanitary napkins and condoms in their stomachs. Moreover, several of the animals had allegedly injured their hooves by stepping on glass.

A forest official who spoke to The News Minute on the condition of anonymity, says that, "Feral dogs are one of the main reasons for death of these animals. These dogs need to be removed or atleast sterilised. They attack the fawns of deer and blackbucks. The increasing infrastructure, further means, a deer which is much faster than a dog, has nowhere to run." When the department met the Dean regarding wildlife protection, the institute allegedly blamed the increasing number of students for the constant construction within the campus.

TNM further contacted the office of the Wildlife warden, but staff said that she was on a holiday. IIT's media cell further requested for a day's time to respond to the revelations that have surfaced following this RTI reply. 

All of 236 hectares, the IIT-M campus has been carved out of a natural forest forming a part of the Guindy national park. Over 430 species of plants and animals have been identified as living within this area. Spotted deer and blackbucks are among the primary inhabitants of this ecosystem. 

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