The Congress leader and former Forest Minister Thiruvanchoor Radhakrishnan has demanded that the State government notify 17,348 acres of forest land in its possession in Munnar as reserved forest as recommended by a Central team.
The Central government had sent a team headed by K. Subhakar Reddy, Regional Chief Conservator of Forest, Union Ministry of Environment and Forests, Bangalore, to the State recently to investigate alleged encroachments and violation of the Forest Conservation Act in Munnar.
Talking to The Hindu here on Wednesday, Mr. Radhakrishnan said his party was for notifying the area as reserved forest. A decision in this regard was taken by the Land Board in 1974 when the United Front (UF) government led by Communist Party of India (CPI) leader C. Achutha Menon was in power in the State. The Congress was a major partner of the UF.
He said that as per the Land Board decision of 1974, out of 1,28,000 acres, 58,000 acres was given to the Tatas. Of the remaining 70,000 acres, 17,348 acres was recommended for notification as forest and the remaining area was set apart for the Revenue, Dairy Development, Housing and Tribal departments. So the State government should immediately notify the area as reserved forest so that no further encroachment takes place there.
Mr. Radhakrishnan said that during his term as Forest Minister in the Oommen Chandy Ministry, he had initiated steps in the direction. But the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) lost power in the 2006 Assembly election.
He said the Left Democratic Front (LDF) government had failed to take any concrete steps to renew the Parambikulam-Aliyar Project (PAP) agreement so that Kerala could get its due share of water. Since Kerala is not getting its share of water from the PAP, the Bharathapuzha goes dry every summer and Palakkad faces acute shortage of water. During the UDF government's term, ministerial-level and official-level talks were held on the PAP. But after the LDF came to power, Chief Secretary-level talks could not be held.
He said the LDF government had done a grave mistake by agreeing to give water to Tamil Nadu from the Neyyar dam. The government should have taken up all the major five water-sharing issues together with the Tamil Nadu government. These are Neyyar, Mullaperiyar, PAP, Anamalayar and the construction of a weir at Mukkali in Palakkad to divert water from the Bhavani for use in Mannarkkad.
He said that once Tamil Nadu got water from the Neyyar, it did not take any interest in the renewal of the PAP agreement. Instead, it is asking for the entire water of the Anamalayar. This cannot be allowed.
Kerala can consider giving 2.5 tmcft of water from the Anamalayar as said in the PAP agreement provided Tamil Nadu agrees to release more water from the PAP for Palakkad and ensure minimum environment flow of water for the Bharathapuzha, the longest river of Kerala, Mr. Radhakrishnan said.