Local people stage protest in front of eco tourism centre

Hundreds of local people under the banner of the Kakkayam Karshaka Raksha Samiti staged a sit-in in front of the Kakkayam Eco Tourism Centre in the district on Friday in protest against the forest officials reportedly releasing poisonous snakes near human settlements at Kakkayam on Thursday night.

A four-member Forest Department team led by Thamarassery Deputy Ranger K.P. Balan had been detained by the locals at 8.30 p.m. on Thursday for allegedly releasing about 20 poisonous snakes, including cobra and king cobra, at Kakkayam.

Tourist vehicles were prevented from proceeding to the dam site. The agitators also warned that they would continue the strike.

Usually, snakes and other wild animals captured by the Thamarassery and Peruvannamuzhi range offices are released at the Kakkayam dam site.

However, local people alleged that the forest officials released the captured reptiles at locations near settlements at Kakkayam, instead of the designated area.

On Thursday, they grew suspicious when the forest team that passed the Kakkayam town at 8 p.m. returned within 15 minutes, the villagers said. Normally, the 15-km route took at least an hour to cover. Last month, a similar incident had taken place. Complaints submitted before the police and the Department for Forests and Wildlife had not been addressed so far.

The issue was temporarily sorted out by around midnight after the police and senior forest officials intervened in the matter. However, the Kurachundu police have registered a case in connection with the incident.

The villagers at Kakkayam are also agitated over the forest officials notifying agriculture lands in possession of farmers as eco sensitive localities (ESL).

They said the inflow of tourists had disturbed them. The temporary closure of tourist spots at Thushagiri and Janakikkadu in the district had brought large number of eco tourists and trekkers to Kakkayam, a part of Malabar Wildlife Sanctuary.

The State government had not provided facilities to the tourists. Illegal activities had also been reported even during daytime. The tourists left food waste and plastic in the forest and on the roads, they said.

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