Tamil Nadu has declared Meghamalai in the Western Ghats of Theni district as a protected area owing to its rich flora and fauna.
Meghamalai being a densely forested area with various animals, including elephants, has been accorded the status by the Forest Department. With the declaration, the total extent of protected areas in Tamil Nadu has risen to over 4,500 sq. km, the State Forest Minister N. Selvaraj said at a media interaction here on Monday.
To a query Mr. Selvaraj expected the proposed zoological park inside the Reserve Forest at M.R. Palayam near Tiruchi to come up in two years time. As a first step towards the establishment of the zoo, the Forest Department will invite tenders shortly for the construction of a compound wall at an estimated expenditure of Rs. 81 lakh funded jointly by the Central Zoo Authority and the State Government.
He said efforts were underway to protect forest areas and wildlife. Though the tiger population in the country has witnessed a decline over the years, in Tamil Nadu it has increased from 62 to 76. Likewise, while the forest area in the country had reduced by 728 sq.km, in Tamil Nadu an increase by 41 sq. km could be achieved, he said, citing a survey.
Over the past two years, the government has been at the task of expanding green cover outside forest areas by planting saplings in private lands under the Tree Cultivation in Private Lands Scheme, at a cost of over Rs 15 crore, said Mr. Selvaraj.