In an incident that has caused anger among naturalists, a group of people illegally entered the forest area near Chikkarasampalayam in Sathyamangalam Wildlife Sanctuary, felled trees, cleared bushes and covered trenches meant to deter elephants.
The naturalists complained that the clearing of vegetation and closing of the trenches was apparently aimed at laying a road to a temple in the forest area. Members of the Tamil Nadu Green Movement alleged that those who indulged in the gross violation in an area that is essentially an important elephant habitat were supporters of Bhavanisagar MLA T.L. Sundaram (CPI).
Forest officials had dug the trenches to avoid man-animal conflict. Moreover, there was no temple as claimed by the locals, the movement said. “It is only a small stone idol and even without clearing the trees and covering the trenches, worshippers can visit the place.”
The members said the group felled trees and took away timber weighing more than a tonne. It laid a road illegally to a distance of 1.5 km to facilitate the movement of tractors and trucks. It had constructed a small shed inside the forest and brought a generator set to light up the area.
When contacted, the MLA said that he was not aware of any such place. He had not gone there. “It is a false allegation against me. My supporters are not involved in this. If I want to lay a road even inside a forest area, I will do it in the presence of the members of the media,” Mr. Sundaram said.
Ashutosh Samant Singhar, Chief Conservator of Forests, who is in-charge of the Western Region, said that a group had gone to worship at the temple on a weekend. They had sought the permission of the Forest Department to close the trenches and assured that they would be restored by Saturday night.
The area Ranger was camping there to supervise the work.
A. Rangarajan, general secretary of the Tamil Nadu Green Movement, said the time had come for regulating festivities around temples inside forest areas.
These should be managed by the Forest Department as the number of people visiting temples inside forests was increasing every year in an uncontrolled manner.