Adavi, a picturesque forest patch on the banks of river Kallar, will soon become an asylum for orphaned elephants, thanks to an initiative taken up by Revenue Minister Adoor Prakash with the support of Konni Divisional Forest Officer T. Pradeepkumar.
The Forest Department has identified 160 hectares of forest land at Adavi, 10 km from Konni town, for setting up a rehabilitation centre for elephants, especially for rescued, orphaned, injured and abused pachyderms.
The proposal is to develop defunct acacia and teak plantations spread across 160 hectares of forest land into an elephant sanctuary-cum-ecotourism centre strictly adhering to the provisions of forest laws, said Mr. Pradeepkumar.
Mr. Pradeepkumar told The Hindu that Vana Samrakshana Samithis (VSS) would be entrusted with the task of running the centre with out disturbing the natural environs and the forest ecosystem.
An ecotourism project would be part of the elephant asylum with a view to spreading public awareness on environment conservation and wildlife protection by bringing man close to the forest environs as well as the wildlife.
According to Mr. Pradeepkumar, elephants calves, separated from their mothers and herds, are often found wandering in the forests and such animals would be brought to the proposed rehabilitation centre. Injured and abused elephants would also be given shelter at the centre.
The Revenue Minister, who is also the local MLA, said the project, estimated to cost Rs.350 lakh, would be implemented in two phases. The government had already sanctioned Rs.100 lakh for the first phase.
Familiarising people with the wild through such projects in an eco-friendly manner would be of great help in reducing excessive human intervention in forests leading to deforestation, fires, and poaching, the DFO said.
Work under way
Mr. Prakash said the work on an arch at the entrance of the proposed centre and a bridge across a stream leading to Kallar was fast progressing.
The DFO said the construction of a bathing ghat and six tree-top huts would also be completed in the next few months. The nearly 5-km river frontage of the project area facing Kallar would be an added attraction to the Adavi ecotourism venture.
Mr. Pradeepkumar said the project has been modelled on the Pannawala Elephant Orphanage in Sri Lanka.
An herbal garden, bamboo park, arboretum, honeybee park, butterfly park, bamboo shelters, and a bird-watching facility are the key components that have been included in the first phase of the project.
The DFO said the Forest Department would also provide facility for coracle rides and rafting along the 15-km stretch of the river between Chengara and Thekkuthode. VSS volunteers would take tourists for a trek into the interior forest.
The department is also planning to set up tree-top walkways and an adventure trekking facility at Adavi in association with the Tourism Department.
The elephant rehabilitation centre would be set up in the second phase, he said.
A mahout training centre, a check dam with water-spread area of two acres for the elephants to take bath, and a breeding place have also been planned in the second phase.
Adavi is hardly 5 km from Mundommoozhy on the Achencoil-Chittar Hill Highway. The elephant camp and museum in Konni town will be the base camp of the eco-tourism initiative.
The forest shrines of Aluvamkudy and Avolikkuzhi are also situated in the area.
Mr. Prakash said the project, when completed, would be the first one of its kind in the country and would attract global attention. It would also generate employment opportunity for the local population in a big way.
He said entry into the Adavi eco-tourism project area would be strictly restricted through a pass system with a view to avoiding excessive human intervention in the forests.