The decision of the Kerala Tourism Development Corporation (KTDC) to assign for tapping rubber trees in the Kumarakom Bird Sanctuary, one of the premier sanctuaries for migratory birds in the country, has drawn flak from environmentalists.

The Kumarakom property, now under the KTDC, comprises 36.49 hectares of land on the shores of the Kavanar at Kumarakom, which forms part of the original estate developed by the Baker family.

The property has been zoned among the 9.18-hectare tourism zone, where it operates a hotel; 14.79-hectare buffer zone; and the 12.51-hectare core area. The corporation has now assigned more than 1,200 rubber trees in the buffer zone for tapping.

The KTDC maintains that it has given only the trees on the sides of the pathway in the buffer zone and between the buffer zone and the core area for tapping as it can augment income generation from the property.

However, environmentalists fear that this initiative will meet with the same fate as the steps taken by the KTDC officials earlier. One of the ‘innovative' initiatives taken a few years back was to sell the rubber trees on the sanctuary, which had to be discontinued on intervention from the environmentalists.

Later, they decided to sell coconut from the trees on the property. This also resulted in tragedy as the contractor took the easy way out to clear the undergrowth by burning it.

Ecologists fear the latest initiative too will end in tragedy. They point out that the move went against the stipulations since activities within the buffer zone are restricted and tapping cannot be allowed.