Activists contend that the applicant cleared a patch of Shola forest and laid a road in 2011

The forest authorities’ decision to permit cutting of 3,000 trees in a private estate in Kodaikanal has caused alarm among naturalists and environmentalists.

Even though the permission was granted in March, it was only on Wednesday last that the tree cutting began, provoking a strong reaction from the naturalists.

According to an order issued by the State Forest Department on March 4, J.R. Robinson of Adukkam village, Kodaikanal block in Dindigul district, approached the department for getting permission to cut trees on patta land in the village. The site belongs to a religious order of nuns. He informed the authorities that he had been granted the power of attorney from the property’s owner.

Taking into account the fact that the applicant was suffering from cancer and also underwent a surgery, it was decided to allow him to cut the trees.

However, the department stipulated that the applicant should not violate any rules while cutting the trees and not cause any loss to the government or damage to the environment.

Shocked by the order, activists contended that the applicant in March 2011 obtained permission to cut 3,000 eucalyptus trees and for transporting the cut logs to the road but he cleared a patch of Shola forest (evergreen forest) and laid a road for a distance of 362 metres with a width of 3.50 metres. Earthmoving equipment was used for clearing the forest patch and for laying the road. Rocky patches in the forest were destroyed using dynamites.

When this incident came to the notice of an Assistant Conservator of Forests, he intimated the matter to the District Forest Officer Kodaikanal.

A report was submitted to the government, which indicted the then district forest officer D. Sampath and a team of Rangers, Foresters and Guards for failing in their duty. After the applicant cleared the Shola forest, the District Tree Cutting Committee cancelled the permit.

When contacted, forest officials refused to comment on the issue. Mr. Robinson could not be reached.

Reacting strongly to the permission, N. Arun Shankar, secretary of the Palani Hills Conservation Council, said the area has been declared a wildlife sanctuary Moreover, the Shola forests in Kodaikanal were the main water source for Palani town.

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