Forest Minister Benoy Viswam said here on Thursday that the Forest Department would not tolerate any exploitation of Sabarimala pilgrims by eco-development committees in the Periyar Tiger Reserve area.

The Minister told the media that strict instructions had been issued against benami control and over-charging of price on items sold through their shops in the area. The shops would have to stick to the prices fixed by the district collectors and shops violating the directions would be suspended.

Mr. Viswam said that the Department had increased the production capacity of its packaged drinking water plant near Sabarimala to 5000 litres a day. The water, purified through reverse osmosis, filtering,ozonisation and chlorination would be sold through the eco-development committees.

This would generate about 10000 workdays for the forest-dependent communities.The used bottles would be taken by paying a price of Re. 1 per bottle so as to prevent accumulation of plastic waste at Sabarimala. The campaign launched by Forest Department in Chennai and Hyderabad to keep Sabarimala plastic free had received good response.

Similar programme was planned to be launched in Karanataka shortly. He wanted companies marketing packaged drinking water in the Sabarimala area to fulfill their social responsibility and take back the used bottles. Sabarimala temple should be maintained as a jungle-shrine.

It should not be surrounded by a ‘concrete jungle’ and waste. He said that the authorities had not approached the Forest Department for any permission regarding maintenance of Swami Ayyappan road. The Department would allow any proposal based on the master plan for Sabarimala development.

“The master plan will not be allowed to be by-passed.”

Translocation

The Minister said that translocation of people being in Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary, mainly tribals, would begin shortly. The scheme was being realised after a wait of three decades.

The Centre had cleared a Rs. 88 crore project for voluntary translocation of 880 families living inside the sanctuary. Rs. 5.5 crore for the first phase had been sanctioned; and Rs. 3.5 crore had already been released. Using these funds, 33 families in two colonies would be shifted immediately.

Each family would be given Rs. 10 lakh for relocation irrespective of their holdings in the sanctuary area.

Mr. Viswam said that the Kerala Forest Academy at Arippa in Thiruvananthapuram district, for which the Union Minister of State for Environment and Forests Jairam Ramesh is to lay the foundation stone on Saturday, would herald a new era in the training of foresters. They were to be trained to meet the demands of the new era with an enlightened vision and dedication.