Area notified as reserved under forest preservation law

Naturalists and environmentalists have expressed shock and outrage at the clearing of bamboo thickets from a private estate located near Masinagudi in the Nilgiris.

The area is notified as reserved under the Tamil Nadu Preservation of Private Forests Act 1949 and also as a buffer zone of the Mudumalai Tiger Reserve, based on a direction from the Supreme Court. The area is also notified under the Sigur Elephant Corridor in 2009.

S. Jayachandran, Joint Secretary, Tamil Nadu Green Movement said that in 2007, the estate people had petitioned the District Forest Officer, Gudalur, seeking permission to clear the bamboo thickets. Forest officials, in turn, sent it to the district Tree Cutting Committee, headed by the Collector. After a detailed study, the committee rejected the estate’s proposal on the premise that it would alter the landscape.

The estate people moved the Madras High Court last month and obtained an interim injunction against the committee’s order, and under its cover, began clearing the bamboo.

Mr. Jayachandran said that even with an interim injunction, the estate dwellers were obliged to re-send a proposal for approval by the committee. Already, three lorry loads of cleared bamboo poles have been transported from the area. Also, the court order allowed only the felling of decayed and old bamboo trees.

The Supreme Court, in one of its orders, classified bamboo in a forest area as grass and stated that it should not be cleared as it would alter the landscape and reduce fodder availability for animals, particularly elephants. Removing the feed of animals would force them to stray into nearby human habitation and trigger man-animal conflict, Mr. Jayachandran said.

Sources in the district administration confirmed that the private estate people have cleared the bamboo thickets. Till Wednesday , they continued with the clearing of bamboo thickets . On Thursday, following the intervention of forest and district administration authorities, the clearing was suspended. Forest Department officials from Gudalur are in Chennai to vacate the injunction issued by the High Court, the sources added.

When contacted, owner of the estate, who did not want to be quoted, said: “We are doing everything legally. We have to harvest the bamboo periodically. Only then will it regenerate. Moreover, if it is not removed periodically, it will increase the risk of forest fires.”

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