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Cabinet approves buffer zone for Silent Valley

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Special Correspondent

To be carved out from Attappady, Mannarkkad, Kalikavu ranges

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The Cabinet approved a proposal for the formation of a buffer zone for Silent Valley National Park on Wednesday.

The zone will bind the Park on all sides except the north where it is contiguous with the Mukkurthi National Park of Tamil Nadu. The total area of the buffer zone will be about 148 sq. km., carved out from Attappady, Mannarkkad and Kalikavu forest ranges of Kerala.

Reserve forest status

Forest Minister Benoy Viswom said the zone would only have reserve forest status. A new range, Bhavani Forest Range, would be formed to take care of 94 sq. km.

There would be two forest stations under that range at Anavai and Thudukki.

The remaining 54 sq. km. would be brought under the existing Silent Valley Range of the National Park.

Mr. Viswom said the Department had sought 59 additional hands to protect the area. The Cabinet had sanctioned 35 posts, 15 of which were to be filled by redeployment. The Minister, who had been pressing for the approval of the proposal for buffer zone in the Cabinet, said he was happy about the outcome. "The decision reaffirmed the commitment of the LDF Government to protection of environment. The zone is a necessity, not just of the State but also of the nation."

He said the tribals in the area would not be affected by the formation of the zone. The Cabinet would discuss the issue of taking up the proposed Parthrakadavu Hydroelectric Project on the periphery of the Park, if the Union Government gives environmental clearance, he said. The zone is aimed at checking the illicit cultivation of ganja, poaching and illicit brewing in areas adjacent to Silent Valley and help long-term sustainability of the protected area.

The national park was formed in 1984 after a prolonged agitation by environmental activists, writers and the general public for saving the pristine rain forests.

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