Tamil Nadu

Bridge across Moyar a threat to ecosystem: conservationists

The bridge built with stones across the Moyar river by locals does not have the approval of the Forest Department. Photo: Special arrangement

The bridge built with stones across the Moyar river by locals does not have the approval of the Forest Department. Photo: Special arrangement  

Residents in the area have built the temporary structure without permission, says Forest Department

An illegally constructed bridge along the Moyar River in the Mudumalai Tiger Reserve (MTR) by a section of residents of Thengumarahada village will have a huge impact on the ecosystem and could lead to a boom in tourism in the region, warn conservationists.

The bridge built with stones across the river has not been approved by the Forest Department, officials confirmed. “First, the bridge blocks the natural flow of water along the Moyar, one of the two rivers emptying into the Bhavani Sagar dam. This will impact the riverine ecosystem, home to otters, marsh crocodiles and a variety of unique species of fish and other aquatic life,” said a conservationist requesting anonymity. He demanded that the illegally-built bridge be demolished.

“Not even the Forest Department can grant permission to build a structure without the clearance of the Ministry of Environment and Forest as the area is in a tiger reserve,” said the conservationist. The village of Thengumarahada is still classified as a reserve forest and non-forest activities are completely prohibited.

‘Secluded location, hard to monitor’

The village is only accessible via Erode district and borders the Sathyamangalam Tiger Reserve, while it is located in the MTR buffer zone. “There is a steady footfall of tourists illegally visiting Thengumarahada. The bridge will only help promote illegal tourism in the area,” said the conservationist. Due to its remoteness, the area is a challenge for the Forest Department to monitor closely, he said.

Thengumarahada, located along a vital elephant corridor in the foothills of the Nilgiris, came up in 1948 when residents of Kil Kotagiri were given land along the river for growing agricultural crops. Though the land is still classified as a “reserve forest,” it was allotted to the Thengumarahada Cooperative Farming Society.

Over the years, houses have been built illegally and only a few members of the original members of the society are said to be residing there. Lands are reportedly being sub-leased to people from other parts of the Nilgiris, Coimbatore and Erode districts, who have illegally moved in to the area and have constructed houses there.

No demolition plan yet

When contacted, Forest Department officials in the Mudumalai Tiger Reserve said they were aware of the bridge, but said they had no plan to demolish it.

“It is only a temporary structure and will be washed away in the next rains,” said an official. The Forest Department was also ascertaining the composition of residents in Thengumarahada. “We are checking how many of them are original members of the society, and how many moved in recently,” said the official.

The bridge was built as people could not cross the river using coracles. “Due to rains last year, the flow of water in the Moyar is stronger than usual, so the villagers felt using coracles was dangerous, and built the bridge,” he added.

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Printable version | Apr 9, 2020 5:09:24 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/bridge-across-moyar-a-threat-to-ecosystem-conservationists/article30898162.ece

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