PALAKKAD: Minister for Forest and Environment A. Sujanapal has said that the Government will consider the demand for a 600-sq km buffer zone for Silent Valley National Park.
He told The Hindu here on Sunday that the demand had to be discussed at various levels before reaching a decision. The Forest Department would examine if the proposed areas were reserve forests, which made it easier to take a decision.
Mr. Sujanapal, who is paying his first visit to the district after becoming Minister, received a memorandum from P.S. Panikkar, submitted on behalf of Bharathapuzha Protection Com- mittee, Malampuzha Protection Committee, One Earth One Life and Jana Jagratha.
The memorandum demanded the immediate formation of the buffer zone, proposed in a management plan for the park, for the survival of Silent Valley, a unique tropical rain forest and `gene pool' of rare flora and fauna. The memorandum said land adjacent to the park, such as New Amarambalam reserve, should be declared its core area. Land around the existing core areas in Attappady and Mannarkkad forest ranges should be made the buffer zone.
The memorandum said the unique ecosystem of Silent Valley could not survive without a buffer zone. It was the only national park without a buffer zone, the proposal for which was made 20 years ago in the management plan.
Measuring just 8,952 hectares, Silent Valley was also the smallest national park. The memorandum said the proposed buffer zone was being destroyed by encroachment, destruction of forest cover for large-scale ganja cultivation and so on.
These affected wildlife, with several elephants and other wild animals around Silent Valley forests in Attappady and Mannarkkad ranges being killed. On being made the buffer zone, these areas would be protected.
The Minister said cultivation of ganja had come to his notice and steps were being taken to end the menace.
Later, at a public meeting, he said though protection of forest was paramount to the protection of environment, the Forest Department had no environment cell to advise the Government on the environmental problems in the State.
There were no facilities with the Forest Department for eco-studies, though more and more environmental issues were cropping up, Mr. Sujanapal added.