A major tourism project under ‘Emerging Kerala’ in Nelliampathy received a set back when the District Collector P.M. Ali Asgar Pasha on last Friday informed the State government and the Intkel authorities, the organizers of the investment meet, that the 25-acre of land with Tourism Department in the Orange and Vegetable Farm in Nelliampathy in a reserve forest.

The Collector sent the report to the Government stating that no non-forestry activity could be taken up there without the prior permission of the Central government under section two of the Forest Conservation Act of 1980.

The Collector told ‘The Hindu’ on Monday that he had informed the Government and the Intkel authorities on the status of the Nelliampathy land on the basis of a report he received from the Divisional Forest Officer (DFO) of Nemmara stating that the entire 325 hectares of land of Orange Farm is a reserve forest.

The move to construct a tourism resort under the ‘Emerging Kerala’ investment scheme of the State Government in the 25-acre land handed over from the Orange and Vegetable Farm to Kerala Tourism Development Corporation in 2006 to set up a Yathri Nivas was caught in controversy as the entire Farm is a reserve forest that attracts the Forest Conservation Act of 1980.

Nemmara Divisional Forest Officer (DFO) Raju K. Francis told ‘The Hindu’ here on Monday that the entire 325 hectares of land is a “Reserve Forest that was handed over to the Agriculture Department by the Forest Department to cultivate fruits and vegetables in 1943. After the Central Forest Conservation Act of 1980 the land cannot be used for any non-forestry activities without the prior sanction of the Central government under the Act.”

He said that he had sent a report to the District Collector heading the ‘Emerging Kerala’ project in the District on the status of this land since there were reports about the area being used for constructing a tourism project.

The project invited criticism from environmentalists and other sections of the people promoting the Forest Department authorities to take up the matter with the District Collector who took it up with the Government now.

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