Earlier this week, twenty activists began a cycle campaign from Salem to Chennai, a 340km journey, just for one cause- to save water bodies from encroachments.
Salem Citizen's Forum, an organization which works for lake restoration had drafted a letter to the Salem collector in January stating four encroachments in Salem, but there was no response.
Fed up with the lack of response, the activists started a cycle campaign around the collector's office and that has further led to a campaign from Salem to Chennai to send a message to Tamil Nadu government to remove encroachments from water bodies and begin rain-water harvesting.
On January 25, 2016, Salem Citizen's Forum sent a letter to the district collector stating four encroachments in Salem district.
The letter mentions about the Mookan Eri, a lake, and claims, "In an act of granting illegal patta, Mookan eri has been sliced into 13 parts" and assigned to Prakasan, a non-agriculturist and later transferred to his sister Suseela. "They are not farmers still they have got titles. Only a farmer can get a title of an agricultural land. It is a serious matter as half the bundh belongs to them," said Piyush Manush, convener of the Salem Citizens' Forum.
The letter also highlights Ismail Khan Eri. Sixteen acres of the water body are being transformed into plots. This land was assigned to be used for agricultural purposes. But now, it has reportedly been sold to an MLA who represents the DMDK party. The organization claims that it is illegal for the land to be used for any other purposes other than agriculture or water storage.
Moreover, the organization highlights the encroachments on Pallapati Lake and Odai (Inlet Channels). The letter states, "The lake outlet weir has been broken for many years. The broken wier makes all the water drained off the lake." They claim that plastic and sewage also inroads through the two inlet channels and water gets inundated for residents living in the residential areas. In December 2015, many houses collapse in the area. They asked the government to remove encroachments along the lake foreshore and inside the water body.
They also stated that all the odais and streams which connect several water bodies in the Salem district needs to be measured and encroachments needs to be removed expeditiously as Salem has been facing severe drought for the past decade.
A cycle campaign 'Maari Amma Utharvu' began on Tuesday from Salem to Chennai. Talking to The News Minute, he said, "We are asking the government to remove encroachments from water bodies. Everyone is agreeing that encroachments were the root cause for floods then why not remove it. Once encroachments are removed, rain water harvesting will be done on a community scale," said Piyush Manush.
Talking about the floods and government, "Even after such a huge deluge, the state does not do anything to tackle encroachment," he said. The cycling campaign also held a rally in association with Dharmapuri People’s Forum.
The cycle rally will be reaching Chennai on February 15,2015 and end with a final public meeting on February 21,2016.