Chief Minister to attend high-level meet today

: In a move that could have far-reaching implications on the fragile ecology of Siruvani forests that constitute a crucial portion of the Western Ghats on the Coimbatore border in Palakkad district, the State Irrigation Department has started efforts to construct a recreational tourism complex in 370 hectares of forest land leased to it long back. The department has already obtained an in-principle nod to set up the tourism facility-cum-park close to Siruvani Dam from Chief Minister Oommen Chandy who handles the additional portfolios of Forest and Environment.

Interestingly, both the departments have raised serious objections against setting up the tourism complex in a fragile portion of the Western Ghats and that too in the core areas of the forest.

Though entry of public to Siruvani remains restricted because of the sensitive nature of the forests there, the Irrigation Department refused to return the surplus land in its possession and constructed an inspection bungalow there last year without obtaining necessary clearances.

Serious objections

The Forest Department raised serious objections against the new tourism complex project.It has also pointed out that boating in the dam would pollute the drinking water meant for the residents of Coimbatore.

The Chief Minister has convened a high-level meeting on Wednesday to clear the apprehension.

Environmental activist Tony Thomas, who works with NGO One Earth; One Life, said that “It is ironic that such an encroachment on the Western Ghats by the State government is happening when discussions about protection of it are gaining ground. Tourism in Siruvani was hitherto restricted and only tribals of Cheengapara colony were allowed to conduct eco-tourism by accompanying those who with genuine interest to the selected portion of the forests.’’