The Forest Department here has proposed to implement the Silent Valley model eco-tourism project to save the ecologically fragile Nelliampathy Hills bordering the Parambikulam Tiger Reserve from the present uncontrolled and destructive tourism.
The eco-system here is unique in many ways. It is as rich as the Silent Valley eco-system in terms of flora, fauna and high rainfall.
The endangered Lion Tailed Macaque, Nilgiri Tahr, Gaur (Indian Bison), King Cobra and Indian Python found in Silent Valley, are also found here.
This tropical, wet, evergreen forest has a fragile and delicate ecosystem and even a minor disturbance can trigger a chain reaction.
Set in the midst of wildlife sanctuaries of Parambikulam, Anamalai and the Peechi-Vazhani, is a corridor for animal movement. It is also the catchment area for various reservoirs like Pothundy, Mangalam and Chulliyar, the Forest Department officials said. But of late the eco-tourism mainly promoted by some estate owners here is affecting the environment of the area, they said. Conservator of Forest, Olavakode, N.K. Sasidharan has said uncontrolled tourism through the forest areas is destroying the environment and forest.
Thus, movement of vehicles is to be restricted. Currently, hundreds of vehicles take tourists to view points such as Mampara, Keshavanpara and Karakurisi travelling though 16.5 km of the forest.
A meeting of forest officials, people’s representatives, trade union leaders and those working in the Nelliampathy tourism presided over by V. Chenthamarakshan was held on January 18, 2010.
The Forest officials explained that if the present type of tourism is allowed in Nelliampathy it would destroy the entire area and its fragile ecology.
The area is also invaded by plastic left by the tourists. But the promoters of tourism opposed any move to restrict them.
But the forest officials pointed out the tourism going on now in Nelliampathy is a violation of the Forest Conservation Act of 1980 which they cannot allow.
The Conservator said the Kerala High in its judgment in OP 38847\2 and 08\12\2009 dismissing the petition of a plantation owner against the Forest Department denying him sanction to construct resort said that “When it is asserted that the area in question is forest land, naturally no non-forest activities can be carried out in the area without permission from the Government of India as mandated in the Forest Conservation Act, 1980.”
But it is learned that now political pressure is being put on the Forest Department not to put any check on the present destructive tourism in Nelliampathy.