Radhakrishnan Kuttoor

Work stopped after eco-group raises objection

Eco-group has not understood ground reality: MLA

Says it envisages overall development of hilly areas

PATHANAMTHITTA: The proposed hill highway project linking Achencoil with Sabarimala via Tura, Kallely, Eliyarackal, Konni, Thannithode and Chittar has hit a roadblock with the Forest Department stalling the work in the forest tracts till further orders on the directives of Forest Minister Benoy Viswom.

The Minister had directed the department to stop the project reportedly following objections raised by an eco-group, Prakruthi Samrakshana Ekopana Samithi. According to Adoor Prakash, MLA, who has been campaigning for the road project , the eco-group, led by poet and environmentalist Sugathakumari, had raised objections to the project without understanding the ground reality.

Mr. Prakash said the department and the Union Ministry of Forests and Environment had cleared the project, treating it a feasible one that could help the department check anti-forest activities in the region, besides bringing development to the villages adjoining the forest areas of the Achencoil, Konni and Ranni forest divisions.

The proposal is to develop existing forest roads and Public Works Department (PWD) roads in the region, linking Achencoil with the Mannarakulanji-Pampa main trunk road leading to Sabarimala via Konni, Thannithode and Chittar, so that the existing road distance between Achencoil and Sabarimala could be reduced by 40 km.

The proposed Achencoil-Chittar-Sabarimala hill highway project has been prepared envisaging the overall development of the hilly tracts of Pathanamthitta without altering the environment and ecosystem, the MLA said.

The road project was launched at Achencoil during the period of the previous UDF government. The road work at Chittar was inaugurated by Chief Minister V.S. Achuthanandan on November 15, 2007.

The project involved development of the existing roads from Achencoil to Chittar. Of this, 35.375 km passes through forest areas of Achencoil (5.375 km), Konni (28.475 km) and Ranni (1.6 km). The NABARD-funded project, estimated at Rs.13.7 crore, was to be completed in a time-bound manner, Mr. Prakash said.

Conservator of Forests K.V. Subramanyam, in a report to the Principal Chief Conservator of Forests, said the proposed road required neither any widening work nor did it passed through any dense forest reach. The report stated that the road would be beneficial for the department in carrying out conservation and wildlife protection activities more effectively.

The local units of CPI(M) and CPI had staged marches to the Divisional Forest Office in Konni, protesting against the decision to stop the work.