Staff Reporter

Curbs on unbridled tourism to save the fragile eco-system of Nelliampathy hills

Vehicles ply 16.5 km on forest land to sites

Forest officials, public meet to chalk out solution

PALAKKAD: The Forest Department proposes to implement a Silent Valley model eco-tourism project to save the ecologically fragile Nelliampathy Hills, bordering the Parambikulam Tiger Reserve, from uncontrolled tourism-related activities.

The eco-system here is unique and as rich as the Silent Valley’s in terms of plant and animal life and rainfall. The endangered lion-tailed macaque, Nilgiri tahr, gaur (Indian bison), king cobra, Indian python, etc., found in the Silent Valley are also found in the Nelliampathy forest. This tropical, wet, evergreen forest has a fragile ecosystem and even a minor disturbance can trigger a chain reaction.

Of late, eco-tourism, mainly promoted by some estate owners here, had been affecting Nelliampathy, conservator of forest, Olavakode, N.K. Sasidharan, said. So, some restrictions would be in place on movement of vehicles. Now, hundreds of vehicles take tourists to Mampara, Keshavanpara amd Karakurisi, travelling through 16.5 km of forest. A meeting of forest officials, people’s representatives, trade union leaders and those working in the tourism sector in Nelliampathy was held here recently. The Forest officials explained that if the present tourism system would destroy the region’s ecology — the area is strewn by plastic left by the tourists. Tourism promoters vehemently opposed any move to restrain their activities in the area.

But, the forest officials pointed out the tourism activities in Nelliampathy were a violation of Forest Conservation Act of 1980, which they could not permit.

Court ruling

The Conservator said that the Kerala High Court, , dismissing the petition of a plantation owner against the Forest Department denying him sanction to construct a resort said that “When it is asserted that the area in question is forest land, naturally no non-forest activities can be carried out in the area without permission from the Government of India as mandated in the Forest Conservation Act, 1980.”

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