A road has been laid in forest without Union Ministry of Environment permission

Ecologists are questioning the right of way given to a private petrol pump by clearing a portion of forests in Sathyamangalam Tiger Reserve.

The pump has been set up in Rajan Nagar falling under the Bhavani Sagar Range, on the National Highway 209.

K. Mohan Raj of Tamil Nadu Green Movement said the right of way was not given till 2011. But, now the path has been given and bunk people have laid a road inside the forest area.

Forest officials have to get clearance from the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests and also from the National Board for Wildlife to take up any non-forestry activity in a sanctuary or a tiger reserve. Moreover, it is a violation under the Wildlife Protection Act of 1972. All these were not taken into account before permission was accorded, he charged.

A visit to the place last week revealed that most of the works have been completed and the bunk is ready for operation.

Naturalists pointed out that allowing a hazardous material handling unit closer to the forest will have a negative impact. Moreover, pollution from the unit would affect the fragile ecosystem in the Sathyamangalam forest. Above all, the bunk is located close to Sujilkuttai – Bannari elephant corridor, where very often elephants pass through.

The bunk would only result in increased human-animal conflict, which is already an issue there, Mr Mohan Raj pointed out.

When contacted, forest officials said the person who set up the bunk had claimed the right of way legally. Moreover, there was not much elephant movement. “The State is still in the process of declaring eco-sensitive zones. Once that comes, then the department will be able to take necessary action on the petrol bunk issue."