A technical committee of the Centre would visit Munnar within two weeks to study the damage caused to the environment in the hill station due to encroachment by real estate groups, Union Minister for Environment and Forests Jairam Ramesh said on Friday.

The Centre would intervene in the issue after the committee submits its report, Mr. Ramesh told reporters here. “If it was found that the provisions in the 1980 Forest Conservation Act had been violated, stringent action would be taken against those responsible, whether it be politicians or real estate groups,” the minister said.

On the Centre rejecting the proposal for a hydel project at Athirappally in Thrissur district, he said the Kerala State Bio-diversity Board had in its report to the Centre listed the project’s adverse impact on environment.

“The district panchayat had also submitted a memorandum to the Centre asking it not to give sanction to the project, besides various environmental groups,” he said.

Dismissing state Power Minister A.K. Balan’s charge that there was a “conspiracy” behind the Centre’s decision not to clear the project, Mr. Ramesh said there was no question of showing neglect towards the state. Projects of other states including neighbouring Karnataka had been denied clearance citing environmental reasons.

Mr. Ramesh said like Athirappally, the project proposed at Silent Valley was also given clearance first. The decision was reversed when studies found that it would cause serious harm to the environment. He said the Centre had sanctioned the maximum number of projects to Kerala and said any kind of conspiracy theory was unwarranted.

Asked about the moratorium on Bt Brinjal, he said elaborate study was required before introduction of a genetically modified food crop in the country. “It was the first time the country was considering such a proposal and a genetically engineered food crop could not be introduced without adequate caution,” he said.

In case of Bt cotton, there have been reports of success and failure which would be evaluated, he added.

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