Environmentalists fighting to save the Ousteri lake

Ousteri lake (Osudu lake) is one of the examples in the history of deterioration of wetlands where a long wait for the final judgment is taking the lake towards a slow death process.

The Ousteri lake protects the groundwater level and acts as an alternative source of drinking water. It is also home for different bird species.  In spite of great efforts by the environmentalists, the High Court (HC) of Madras had delayed to give its verdict. Taking the full advantage of the situation, a trust has not only built a medical college on the banks of the lake but has started running it.

The story started in the year 2004, when Lakshmi Ammal Education Trust placed a proposal for construction of a medical college in front of the town planner. The department rejected the proposal in 2005 considering that its location is too close to Ousteri Lake, high ground water requirement and high wastewater generation.  Later on the trust was successful in getting clear chit from Pollution Control Committee (PCC), Agriculture Department and even from the Irrigation Department. In 2006, about 21 NGOs came together and formed an Ousteri Protection Coordination Committee (OPCC). The committee tried to raise their voice in public hearings conducted by the Pollution Control Committee. As a result the PCC asked the trust to prepare the Environment Impact Analysis report.

The OPCC protested against the report. It was surprising for the local NGOs how the construction continued during the whole process. OPCC filed a PIL in the HC in the same year against the Union of India, PWD, Town and Country Planning, Pondicherry Pollution Control Committee and the Trust. The HC ordered an interim injunction. In spite of repeated stay orders, the trust continued its construction and even started the admission process. The OPCC files another PIL in the later part of 2006 pleading the HC to render justice. The court has not come up with its judgment. “The judgment is now reserved. We do not know when the final judgment will be delivered. We expect that we will loose the case and if so our advocates are ready to appeal in the Supreme Court which will be decided only after final judgment", says I Longovan of Poovulagin Nabargal, a Puducherry based NGO.”