Greens slam move to hand over forestland to private tea estate in Wayanad

Environmental organisations are up in arms against the move of the Forest department to hand over 18.250 hectares of forestland to a private tea estate in Wayanad.

Wayanad Prakruthi Samrakshana Samiti president N. Badusha on Thursday alleged that a few top officials of the Forest department had conspired to hand over the forestland worth ₹200 crore here under the Meppadi forest range of the South Wayanad forest division to Elstone Tea estate Limited and the Meppadi Forest range officer was preparing a mahassar for the purpose.

According to the verdicts of the Supreme Court and the Kerala High Court, all transactions related to land, which were under the possession of the British, were null and void and the ownership of the land was vested with the State government, Mr. Badusha said.

The government had recently appointed a special officer to restore such land in the State, he said. The Wayanad District Collector had also reported that as many as 12 private estate owners were holding land earlier owned by the British, including the land under the possession of the Elsone Tea Estate, he added.

Though the government had issued an order on May 2, 1981, to hand over the land to the Coffee Board for expanding the facilities of its research station, it was yet to be realised, he added.

If the Forest department hands over the land, the organisation would legally challenge it, he added.

SC directive

However, South Wayanad Forest Divisional officer Shajna Kareem said the Supreme Court had directed the department to adopt steps to hand over the land to the estate in 2004. The department had filed an appeal against the direction but it was dismissed.

The State government had also issued a similar direction in 2019. The Conservator of Forest (Palakkad) had issued a directive to adopt steps to hand over the land to the estate on behalf of the government order. The preparation of the mahassar was a part of the process, she added.

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Printable version | May 23, 2022 6:27:57 pm |