Special Correspondent

‘Permission to Kerala for survey only on a technical issue”

NEW DELHI: Union Minister of State for Environment and Forests Jairam Ramesh said on Thursday that he had not given any assurance or commitment to the Tamil Nadu government on the issue of permission granted by the Standing Committee of the National Board of Wildlife to the Kerala government to undertake a survey.

Referring to a letter written by Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi to him and a telephonic conversation he had with Union Communication Minister A. Raja on Thursday, Mr. Ramesh told The Hindu that the permission, under the Wildlife Act, had been given to Kerala only on a technical and narrow issue of “undertaking the survey since the area falls under the Periyar Tiger Reserve and endangered animals (tigers) are there” and his ministry had nothing to do with the construction of a new dam in Mullaperiyar. This was one among the many such permissions required to be taken by the Kerala government, he said.

The Minister reiterated that the permission had been given without prejudice to any legal issue. His Ministry was not involved in the issue on whether the new dam should be constructed or not. “I also clearly explained to Minister Raja about the background of the issue.”

Mr. Ramesh replied in the negative when asked whether the Kerala government had mentioned about the construction of a new dam in place of the existing Mullaperiyar reservoir while seeking permission for a survey in the reserve forests.

It is learnt that Mr. Karunanidhi, in his letter to Mr. Ramesh, had wanted the Union Environment and Forests Ministry to consult the Tamil Nadu government before according any permission to undertake a survey to the Kerala government. He also pointed out that the matter was sub-judice and the argument on the Mullaperiyar issue was slated for October 20 in the Supreme Court.

Water Resources Minister N.K. Premachandran had objected to obstacles placed by Tamil Nadu to the survey. He described Tamil Nadu’s attitude as “unfortunate and without logic” and had said Tamil Nadu was unjustifiably worried about the permission.