Tree-felling in Mullaperiyar a long-standing practice

The Kerala government has been allowing Tamil Nadu to fell trees and clear jungle growth around the baby dam of the Mullaperiyar dam since early 1980s, according to documents.

Incidentally, the State government had in November suspended Bennichan Thomas, Chief Wildlife Warden, Kerala, for permitting the felling of 15 trees in the area adjacent to the baby dam and revoked the order for cutting the trees. Three weeks later the official was reinstated to the same post.

The practice

In his reply to the charge memo, Mr. Thomas pointed out to the government that “in earlier years, the permissions for tree felling for the strengthening and allied works of Mullaperiyar Dam were issued by the Wildlife Preservation Officer/Deputy Director, Thekkady, or by the Field Director (Project Tiger), Kottayam.”

He also produced government letters and orders permitting the cutting of trees and jungle growth in the area adjacent to the baby dam from 1982 to 2012 to prove his point.

Lease agreement

In one such order, the office of the Field Director, Project Tiger, Kottayam, had directed the Wildlife Preservation Officer, Thekkady, on September 24, 1984 that “action can be taken to cut trees essentially required in connection with the dam works” under the Periyar Dam Lease Agreement.

Another order issued by the Deputy Director (Project Tiger) of the Periyar East Division, on September 25, 2012, had permitted the Assistant Executive Engineer of the PWD/WRO of Tamil Nadu to transport the materials from the jungle clearance around the main dam, the baby dam and spillway shutters through the Vallakadavu forest check-post.

Mr. Thomas claimed that the tree-felling order was issued in good faith and based on the directives of the Supreme Court, the decision of the supervisory committee on the Mullaperiyar dam, the written directive from the government and the decisions of the meeting held by the Additional Chief Secretary (Water Resources), which was attended by the Principal Secretary, Forests and Wildlife.

The order was also communicated to the Additional Chief Secretary (Water Resources) and the Principal Secretary, Forests and Wildlife, through email and through a special messenger, he said.

He pointed out that the State Forest Minister “was not the Minister in Charge of the Mullaperiyar leased area.”

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Printable version | May 19, 2022 5:50:00 am |