They also allege borewells are being dug without permission

Environmentalists and naturalists are shocked at the conversion of traditional agriculture land into resorts and digging of borewells in the ecologically sensitive Sirumalai forests in the Dindigul forest division.

Sirumalai is popular for its hill banana, which is grown only there. Basically, it is a catchment area, where sixty per cent of flora found in the Western Ghats, are available. This was recorded by noted botanist Rev. Fr. K. M. Mathew in his book ‘Pocket guide to flora of Sirumalai hills’.

N. Arun Shankar, Coordinator, Tamil Nadu Green Movement, Dindigul, said Sirumalai was traditionally an agricultural area, where farming was the main activity. But, in the last few years farm land was slowly being converted into resorts even without prior clearance from the district administration. Moreover, the Tamil Nadu Preservation of Private Forests Act had categorised the Sirumalai area as an ecologically sensitive one, he said.

Borewells dug up have a minimum depth of 700 ft. RBK estates, Pazhaiyur, BBS and Vaigai estates Kadamankulam were some of the places where borewells were dug without obtaining permission from the authorities concerned. More than 20 bore wells had been dug up in and around Sirumalai, Mr. Arun Shankar charged. Consequently, wells in some of the private estates had gone dry. Indian Gaur, barking deer, mouse deer and occasionally wild dogs and panthers were sighted in the hills and bore wells would deplete water from the water bodies in the hills, Mr. Arun Shankar said.

When contacted N. Venkatachalam, Dindigul Collector, denied that private estates were digging bore wells without the consent from the authorities.

He said the district administration had restricted even the Forest department from digging any borewell in the forests. Due to drought conditions a few villages were permitted to dig borewells and the work was entrusted to the Tamil Nadu Water and Drainage Board.

D. Sampath, District Forest Officer, Dindigul, also denied the allegation that agricultural land was converted into resorts or that they dug borewells for the upcoming resorts.

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