Forest staff have cut trees and laid a road for eight km, in prime elephant corridor, to reach a private estate
A large tract of reserved forest has been cleared and road has been laid to reach an abandoned private estate in Kallar in Mettupalayam Range in Coimbatore Forest division, much to the shock of naturalists and environmentalists.
According to naturalists, the government acquired 32 acres of land, located close to Kallar railway station.
A private estate is located adjoining the acquired land and its owner agreed to hand over his property, measuring 26 acres, to the government.
The property owner gave a consent letter to the district collector a couple of years ago in this regard. But, the government has not taken any effort to acquire it, naturalists charged.
In the meanwhile, the Forest Department authorities have cut the trees and laid a road to a distance of eight km, to reach the private estate. Members of the Tamil Nadu Green Movement (TNGM) charged that there was no need for laying a road in that area and insisted that it be be stopped immediately.
K. Mohan Raj of TNGM said the estate was lying abandoned for a very long time and has become a natural habitat for wildlife. Valuable timber, like rosewood, is found in this place.
“We fear this road is being formed in the reserved forest to smuggle out valuable timber from the private estate,” he said.
This road comes within the Kallar RF in Coimbatore forest division, which is also a critical migratory corridor for elephants, and connects Sathyamangalam Tiger Reserve and Silent Valley.
Apart from elephants, other wildlife, including tigers, leopards, dhole and sloth bears also use this corridor. Linear intrusions like this road in the forests should not be allowed, Mr. Raj added.
Clearing such forest areas would only further aggravate the human-animal conflict, the TNGM members said.
If this corridor connectivity is severed, elephant population will be fragmented and long-term survival of the elephants in this region will be bleak, they added.
When asked about reports regarding a road laid in Kallar reserve forests near Mettuppalayam after unauthorised clearing of vegetations, District Forest Officer — Coimbatore M. Senthilkumar said that though there had not been any such report from the field so far, staff would be deputed to conduct field inspection and initiate appropriate action.
He added that even if any such unauthorised road or clearing of vegetation inside the reserve forest, to enable movement of vehicle or people, was noticed in the neighbouring forest division, the matter would be taken to the notice of the official concerned to initiate stringent action.