Special Correspondent

The Nilgiris is an area of high ecological significance

District generates hydel power, supplies irrigation water and also produces tea The Nilgiris has been badly affected by the process of haphazard development

Udhagamandalam: Deputy Chief Minister M.K. Stalin’s announcement on Tuesday that the government would explore the possibility of forming a separate authority for the development of the Nilgiris should be welcomed by every well wisher of this embattled hill district, said the Director, Nilgiri Documentation Centre (NDC) Dharmalingam Venugopal in a statement issued here on Wednesday.

Pointing out that the idea of a separate development authority for the Nilgiris was first mooted by Save Nilgiris Campaign in December 1988 at a workshop for people’s representatives held here, he said that the recommendation of the workshop was instrumental in the formation of the Hill Area Conservation Authority (HACA) in 1991.

The objectives of HACA are laudable. But its constitution has made it barely functional, leave alone being effective.

Therefore, a separate authority for administering this unique district is very appropriate.

The Master Plan for Nilgiris aptly observes, “The concept of an overall development philosophy for Special Areas is a specialized task.”

The conflicts between departmental priorities in the Nilgiris can be mainly traced to a generalized approach of the administration.

It is high time it was realised that there are more than enough reasons to seriously consider a different type of administrative apparatus for the Nilgiris.

Listing some of them, he said that the Nilgiris is one of the few identified areas of high ecological significance in the country.

Economically, its significance is no less in terms of generation of hydel power, production of tea and vegetables and supply of irrigation water.

The hill stations in the district are some of the most frequented tourist spots in the country.

More importantly, the Nilgiris is not only an ecologically and economically significant region, it is also one of the worst affected by the process of haphazard development.

Therefore, treating the district as a special case and restoring its health could serve as a model for hill areas in general in the country.

The key features of a separate development authority should include the following:

The authority should underline the national and global significance of the district.

The administration should be able to co-ordinate and resolve the conflicting objectives of the various departments.

The top officials in charge of the district should have adequate experience and authority to take the appropriate decisions at the district level itself.

Provision should be made for active participation of local NGOs and opinion makers in deliberating and deciding policies and programmes affecting the district.