The officer has been charged with using explosives

Wildlife authorities on Monday placed under suspension the Range officer of Ambasamudram in Kalakkad-Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve (KMTR) on charges of using explosives in the core area of the Reserve last week.

According to Forest department sources, the Range officer used the explosive to demolish structures in Manimuthar falls area, which is located in the core area of the Reserve. A senior officer conceded that as per the guidelines of National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA), no explosives should be used in any sanctuary or tiger reserves in the country. Already, a team of officials from the district administration visited the spot to conduct an enquiry.

Naturalists complained that this was not the only violation committed in the Reserve. The NTCA guidelines clearly indicate that no new structures should be constructed in the tiger reserves. However, throwing the norms to the wind, the Range officer of Mundanthurai has constructed a new shed for running an eatery.

Earlier, a make-shift arrangement was made in which a small eatery was run by tribal women self help group. However, the Range officer who took charge a few months ago asked the women to close the canteen. “The earlier deputy director allowed and encouraged us to earn some revenue by running the canteen. But, now someone from Vikramasingapuram has been brought to Mundanthurai, who is now running the canteen,” complained the women tribals.

A senior officer who had served in the KMTR said as per the NTCA guidelines, eco-development activities should be implemented with participation from the local tribals. Running a canteen falls under this category and only with the idea of helping the tribal community it was decided to run the eatery, he said.

Sand quarrying

Half a kilometre away from the Manimuthar check post, sand quarrying is going on. This has been happening for the last two months. Tractors would go into the area late in the night to bring the sand. Whenever, the police in Manimuthar battalion stop the vehicle, the driver would inform the police that the sand is meant for Forest department work. This was also done in connivance with the Range officer, naturalists complained.

When contacted a senior officer in the Wildlife wing of the Forest department conceded that they had also received complaints about violation of NTCA guidelines.