Members say it will help ganja cultivators, encourage poaching

The Central Empowered Committee (CEC) of the Supreme Court on August 7 rejected a proposal cleared by the Tamil Nadu Government for laying a road connecting Karumbarai in Theni Forest Division with the grizzled giant squirrel sanctuary near Watrap in Virudhunagar district.

According to Ministry of Environment and Forests sources, the CEC, after inspecting the areas in Theni and the sanctuary on June 13, held public hearing on four occasions. The last one was on August 7, at which it announced the rejection of the proposal.

A senior Ministry official said that the CEC rejected the State Government’s proposal stating that the laying of a road in the ecologically sensitive forest area would only help ganja cultivators, encourage poaching and tree-felling, besides encroaching upon the forests.

Encroachment raises concern

The CEC team expressed its concern over increased encroachment of forests in the Karumbarai area in Theni Forest Division, where people have, over the last three decades, cleared the forests and raised silk cotton plants and cashewnut plantations.

It wants the Sate Forest Department to initiate proper action against such violations.

As far as the road proposal was concerned, more than 600 trees needed to be cleared. The CEC team expressed unhappiness over the felling of naturally grown trees. Moreover, the road had to pass through slopes. Cutting trees on the stretch would lead to soil erosion and landslips, which would ultimately destabilise the entire region.

The CEC team also expressed concern that laying of a road would affect the seasonal migration of elephants from the neighbouring Periyar Tiger Reserve and Theni Forest Division towards the sanctuary areas.

Home to many endangered species

The forest area is not only home to elephants but also endangered species such as leopard, Indian gaur, mouse deer and sambhar.

The two dams in the Watrap area provide water for all wildlife, especially during the dry season, the CEC team pointed out.