Ecologically-sensitive corridor adjoining Mukurthi National Park under threat from illegal construction

The Forest Department is planting trees along the illegal road to prevent future use   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

The ecologically-sensitive area of Naduvattam, adjoining the Mukurthi National Park is at risk, due to the construction of buildings as well as an illegal road cutting through forest land.

According to officials, a road, measuring 125 meters in length was illegally constructed through a patch of land notified to be declared as a reserve forest in the Pykara forest range in the Nilgiris forest division. The owner of a property in the area, who is alleged to be drawing water illegally from the surrounding Shola forests to construct the buildings, built the road that would serve as an access road to the building site.

“Naduvattam area has a very high diversity of endemic species, second only to Cispara in the Mukurthi National Park,” said restoration ecologist, Godwin Vasanth Bosco. “There are endemic balsams in the area that are found only in this area, and most of the Shola trees are old-growth trees,” he added.

Corridor for wildlife

The area also serves as a crucial corridor for wildlife connecting Mukurthi National Park, the Mudumalai Tiger Reserve and Gudalur, with tigers, elephants, Indian gaur, Sambar deer, Nilgiri langur, the Nilgiri laughing thrush, the Nilgiri pipit and other wildlife spotted in the area frequently.

Following media reports about the destruction of the area by private landowners, the National Green Tribunal has taken cognizance of the issue and has directed the district collector and the District Forest Officer to investigate.

“The status of the land on which the buildings are coming up is itself under investigation. Complaints have been received from people in the area that the owner of the property has illegally acquired these lands,” said an official from the Revenue Department requesting anonymity.

Following an investigation, the Forest Department set up a small outpost cutting off access to the road that was illegally constructed, and have also begun undertaking planting of Shola trees along the road to prevent future use. A warning board was also put up stating that the road was cutting through forest land.

When contacted, District Forest Officer, Nilgiris division, Guru Swamy Dabbala, said that a case has been booked against the landowners for encroaching on government land. “We have initiated action and are investigating the issue,” said the DFO.

Conservationists in the Nilgiris said that if the construction is allowed to continue in Naduvattam, it could serve as a potential tipping point in the area, that will lead to more constructions of commercial and residential properties, potentially endangering the existence of hundreds of native species of flora and wildlife.

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Printable version | Jun 15, 2021 7:04:18 PM |

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