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Each time a highway road is widened, anything in the way including temples, trees, homes, and school buildings are removed for the carriageway, with few exceptions.

Recently, three temples situated adjacent to national highways have been physically lifted and moved from the roads. “We have shifted temples in Hosur, Kallakurichi and Ambur using technology. We strengthen the foundation of the temple when it is placed at a new location,” says Gurdeep Kumar, Chief Executive Engineer, TDBD Engineering Works.

Limca Book of Records

The company recently received a certificate from the Limca Book of Records for lifting and moving temples at Coimbatore and Kallakurichi. S. Ravi, one of the trustees of the Maha Mariamman Temple at Kattukottai in Yaamaper, said they had visited the Ambur temple before taking the decision.

“The temple was on the road and the National Highways authorities said it had to be demolished. But we were sentimentally attached to it since it was constructed by our forefathers. So we approached this company that shifted it for us. We have also performed the kumbhabhishekam of the temple and it looks new now,” he said.

Since roads rarely make way for such buildings and trees, they are mostly pulled down. “We have been informed that our school building will be demolished for widening phase II of Old Mamallapuram Road and this despite the fact that there is land on the other side of the road. They say the alignment has been fixed. It is only a road, why cannot it be shifted a few metres to save our building,” said a member of the Punjab Association that runs the school.

Highways officials say there are exceptions. “Certain World Bank-funded projects have shifted their alignment wherever necessary, especially when human cost is high,” an official said.

Trees, major casualty

Trees are also a major casualty when roads are widened. They are cut down in the hundreds and though the various agencies promise to plant saplings in their place, nothing is done.

“Earlier, the departments used to worry when trees were chopped. But now since roads are laid only for vehicles and there is hardly any concern for pedestrians and slow-moving traffic, trees are easy targets,” says a traffic planner.