Kerala

Vehicle entry to Pampa could mar master plan: Gurukkal

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‘Vehicular access may take a toll on the biodiversity hotspot’

Social scientist and historian P.M. Rajan Gurukkal has questioned the rationale behind the recent Kerala High Court order that permitted the entry of private vehicles to Pampa.

Claiming that the direction contravened the Supreme Court-enforced Sabarimala Master Plan, Prof. Gurukkal feared that unfettered vehicular access could take a toll on the biodiversity hotspot which formed part of the Periyar Tiger Reserve.

The issue was not one that merely involved pilgrims’ comfort, but also the sustainability of the ecosystem of the reserve which legally deserved precedence over other matters, he said.

Court nod

The court permitted entry of light motor vehicles carrying Sabarimala pilgrims to Pampa. The vehicles should return to Nilackal after dropping the pilgrims.

Prof. Gurukkal said the court directive could upset the government’s efforts to reduce congestion and pollution along the forest route and at Pampa. “The judgment hardly shows any awareness of the background and constitutionally predestined inevitability of the master plan, which had been ordained by the Supreme Court due to the constitutional primacy of tiger conservation,” he said.

The fundamental principle underlying the master plan was decongesting the Sannidhanam and Pampa by developing a base camp at Nilakkal and minimising the impact of the pilgrimage on the reserve, Prof Gurukkal pointed out.

Central presumption

He said the central presumption of the case was that the flood of 2018 and the resultant lack of facility had accounted for the restriction of vehicle movement, rather than the negative impact of vehicles on the forest ecosystem and wildlife.

It anticipated the plying of about 2,000 cars to Pampa, an 18-km trip, during monthly pujas.

He added that the number of passenger cars was likely to increase manifold during the season.

This could amount to 3.6 crore car km against the nearly 18 lakh bus km over the 50-day season for journey from Nilakkal to Pampa and back.

Positive impacts

Fearing that the impact of the High Court directive on the forest and wildlife would be unsustainably huge, Prof. Gurukkal said the government interventions made during the previous pilgrim season at Sabarimala had positive impacts.

Besides, while the government had decided to extend the ban on plastic in the tiger reserve to forest areas that came under the Ranni forest division this year, the court directive could potentially defeat its purpose. Prof. Gurukkal said.

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Printable version | Dec 15, 2019 10:40:27 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/kerala/vehicle-entry-to-pampa-could-mar-master-plan-gurukkal/article30100237.ece

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