For over two decades, the State Forest Department is mulling over the creation of a wildlife sanctuary in Kodaikanal hills. Yet, the task has not been accomplished.
The 14th Legislative Assembly’s Petitions Committee says in a report: “The committee asks the forest department to take steps to carve out a wildlife sanctuary in forest ranges in and around Kodaikanal. It recommends the passing of an order to this effect immediately.”
Tracing the roots of the proposal takes one back to the late 1980s when Fr. K.M. Mathew, a botanist attached to St. Joseph’s College, Tiruchi,was the first one to suggest the formation of a wildlife sanctuary.
In the 1990s, the Kodaikanal Forest Division was spread over about 370 sq.km with seven ranges and the then DFO R. Srinivasa Reddy, in his proposal in 1999, had recommended the carving out of a new sanctuary by including more ranges from the neighbouring Dindigul and Theni Forest Divisions. The total area of the proposed sanctuary was about 760 sq.km.
During the 1990s, a legal snag prevented the creation of wildlife sanctuaries in Kodaikanal and Meghamalai as the reserve forests in the State were not covered under the Indian Forests Act, 1927, which needed the Centre to amend the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972. The only option was to proceed under section 18 of the Wildlife Act.
However, the Meghamalai wildlife sanctuary was created three years ago.
According to forest officials, the present proposal for a wildlife sanctuary includes 40 per cent of reserve forests from Dindigul and 30 per cent from Theni Forest Division. The failure of the department to carve out the sanctuary for decades has led to encroachments in some of the areas mentioned in the proposal in these two districts.
However, top officials of the department did not want to comment on the status of the proposal.