Anxious locals on Tuesday awaited the arrival of P.V. Jayakrishnan, Chairman, Central Empowered Committee (CEC), and Mahendra Vyas, Member, in the Varshanadu forest area where they conducted an inspection for clearing a road project connecting Varshanadu with Watrap near Srivilliputhur.
The CEC team led by Mr. Jayakrishnan started its journey from Madurai on Tuesday morning and straightaway headed for Varshanadu, the boundary of Theni forest division, from where the road project connecting the Watrap area near Srivillputhur has been cleared by the State Government .
The team reached the Varshanadu area, accompanied by the Conservators of Forests R.K. Bharathi, Madurai and Shekhar Kumar Niraj, Virudhunagar. The team of CEC officials along with the State Forest officials reached the boundary around 11.30 a.m. A sizeable number of locals who gathered around in the area presented petitions to Mr. Jayakrishnan.
They said laying of the road would help them reduce the travel distance between Varshanadu and Srivilliputhur by nearly 150 km. One of the local representatives from the Varshanadu area claimed that the silk cotton and cashew grown in this region could be easily transported to Thiruvananthapuram via Nagercoil. The road would be very useful. After accepting a couple of petitions from the locals, the team members, along with State Forest officials, spent nearly two hours in the area. After completing the inspection at Varshanadu boundary, the team left for Srivilliputhur via Peraiyur. Here again, a group of local residents, led by Tenkasi Member of Parliament P. Lingam, presented a memorandum to the CEC members stating that the road would help in improving the livelihood of several people in Srivilliputhur area.
Later in the evening the Conservator of Forests Shekhar Kumar Niraj made a presentation to the CEC team on laying the road between Varshanadu and Watrap.
Representatives from a local environmental group made their case stating the reason for their opposition to the laying of the road. They said that the area where the road was proposed fell in the habitat of the grizzled giant squirrel habitat, a highly endangered species.
The proposed ghat road would also cut through vital elephant migratory path, impending the seasonal migration of the pachyderms.
They also pointed out that the sanctuary not only housed the squirrels but wa also home to endangered species such as tiger, leopard, sloth bear and Indian bison. The CEC team would hold consultations and later submit their opinions in this regard, said the Forest department sources.