Kerala

Greens worried about SC verdict on Thusharagiri land

The dense forest in the Thusharagiri eco-tourism project area that was nurtured on barren land acquired by the State government 20 years ago.  

Environmentalists in the State foresee a dangerous precedent if the ecologically fragile land near Thusharagiri is handed back to its original owners following the recent Supreme Court verdict. It may even spell doom for Chalippuzha, which originates from the three waterfalls in the area, Thusharagiri, Eerattumukku, and Mazhavil waterfalls. This, in turn, will imperil the Thusharagiri eco-tourism project.

It was in 2000 that the State government took over 540 acres of land near the Thusharagiri waterfalls in the high-ranges of Kozhikode district, after environmentalists, including Medha Patkar and Sugathakumari, highlighted the uncontrolled tree felling in Jeerakappara near here.

A dense forest now

It was mostly barren land and some agricultural land, which now has turned into dense forest inhabited by several animals, including elephants, and some endangered species of butterflies.

As the government had acquired the land under the Kerala Forest (Vesting and Management of Ecologically Fragile Lands) Act, 2003, without paying any compensation, some land owners had approached the court demanding that the land be returned to them. The matter was settled in their favour by the Supreme Court recently. A total of 71 acres have to be returned to the original owners based on this recent judgement.

Two waterfalls in danger

“Chalippuzha, the lifeline of Kodenchery and nearby panchayats, originates from these three waterfalls. When the 71 acres are returned, two of the waterfalls will also be handed over. If the owners choose to take up mining or any sort of construction activities, these waterfalls will suffer and this will affect Chalippuzha,” said T.V. Rajan, State Secretary of All Kerala River Protection Committee.

Whitewater kayaking

The demise of Chalippuzha will in turn affect the eco-tourism projects in the area. “Chalippuzha is known as one of the best locations in the country for whitewater kayaking. The Malabar River Festival that is held here every year is a big success among tourists and local folk alike,” Mr. Rajan said.

The committee also fears that once the 71 acres are handed over, the owners of the remaining 469 acres will also move court. “It may also influence the previous owners of land acquired by the State under the EFL Act elsewhere,” Mr. Rajan said.

Appeal to CM

So far, the State has not resisted handing over the land to the original owners with the Forest Department claiming that it will not affect the eco-tourism project. Considering the serious implications of the problem, the River Protection Committee has appealed to the Chief Minister requesting to file a review petition in the Supreme Court in this matter. It also plans to approach the court separately.


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Printable version | Sep 20, 2021 9:50:13 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/kerala/greens-worried-about-sc-verdict-on-thusharagiri-land/article35624733.ece

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