The free run by encroachers around Munnar is causing the destruction of a large extent of forest area.
The government is taking no action to save the wooded areas under the provisions of the Forest (Conservation) Act and other laws.
Several of the areas encroached upon by resorts and others in and around Munnar are wooded areas. Large trees stood on the areas visited by the Cabinet subcommittee recently near the Lakshmi estate of Kannan Devan Hills Plantation Company. Roads have been constructed by a private party, who claim ownership of the land, through this area and several buildings have been built for tourism purposes. Cardamom has been planted in some areas.
Encroachments have also taken place at a nearby place called Peelicode. This place is close to the project area of Pallivasan hydro-electric project.
The area near Lakshmi estate where the Kannan Devan Company has built a check dam is flanked by forests, though its immediate surrounding is a eucalyptus plantation. There is natural growth amid the plantation and the company itself admits that the area is visited by elephants.
The landscaping of the banks of the dam is done in such a way that it suits tourism rather than elephants arriving to drink water.
A substantial portion of the Gloria farms near the Mathikettan National Park is shola forests. The government is supposed to have taken over part of the farm in 2007. However, a board put up by the revenue officials declaring government ownership has disappeared. The Forest Department never took possession of the forests despite their ecological importance.
Though there is confusion as to whether the encroached areas are reserve forests or not, the Supreme Court has held the T.N. Godavarman Thirumulpad versus Union of India and Others in 1996 that the Forest (Conservation) Act must apply to all forests irrespective of the nature of ownership or classification thereof. “The word ‘forest’ must be understood according to its dictionary meaning”, the Court had said.
When people encroached on forested land at Mathikettan, the then government had evicted all the encroachers and declared the area a national park. Now, people are bold enough to even cultivate ganja close to the Park and the government is still not acting decisively.
Much of the area under encroachment at Chinnakanal was forest plantations. The Forest Act applies to these areas as well. Forest officials are liable for punishment for alienation of these areas under the Act. There are also reports that the forests in Kuttiar Valley and the area under the Social Forestry wing of the Department are under encroachment.