CHENNAI: According to an RTI response from the Indian Institute of Technology, Madras (IIT-M), 220 deer and eight endangered blackbucks have reportedly died in a span of three years between 2013 and 2016 on the campus. There would be multiple factors at play, but a section of activists fear the institute’s campus, which is home to dense forests and wildlife, might be sitting on a major environmental crisis threatening to affect its reputation of being in harmony with nature.
Antony C Rubin, animal welfare activist who accessed the information through RTI, has now knocked on the doors of the southern bench of the National Green Tribunal (NGT) appealing to shift cultural fests like Saarang and Shaastra, which draw large crowds, out of the IIT-M campus, besides a complete ban on non-recyclable plastic.
The bench has admitted the petition and issued notices to IIT-M, the State government, Greater Chennai Corporation, Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) and State forest department for filing replies. The case is set for a July 17 hearing.
Rubin told Express that the numbers are startling. Improper disposal of solid waste is a major problem in IIT-M that attracts stray dogs, which hunt mother deer and fawns. Speeding vehicles, cultural fests with high levels of noise and concretisation of open spaces are adding to the fatalities and stress of an already crumbling ecosystem.
As per the RTI reply, IIT-M claims that only one animal has been killed in a road accident between 2013 and 2016, which was reported on September 20, 2014. However, according to an article titled “Inconvenient Truths: Oh Deer! Tackling Deer Fatalities On Campus”, published in The Fifth Estate (IIT-M’s official campus news and media body) in January 2014 alone — the month when Shaastra and Saarang are organised, 21 deer died and three were injured, of which at least two are blackbucks and one is a fawn. Importantly, three were confirmed dead by accidents. So, the data provided by the institute through RTI clearly underreports the facts on road kills.
The authors of the article also spoke on deer dying due to improper garbage disposal and how stress caused by noise pollution from the fests and the vulnerability of mothers and offspring to dogs (January is the fawning season) could cause casualties.
The activist claims that postmortem reports in cases show that sanitary napkins and condoms were found in deer stomachs. “This is as disgusting. Such things can be prevented through proper solid waste management protocols,” Rubin said.
A security official told this newspaper that at least 1,500 private vehicles enter IIT-M each day. Though speed limit is fixed within the campus, which is 35 kmph on arterial roads, 30 kmph in the school zone and 20 kmph on blind curves, private vehicles seldom follow it. Sometimes violators are caught and fined. K Geethanjali, Wildlife Warden, was not available for comment.