Tamil Nadu

Ecological hotspots under siege

Forests sustain life. Yet, they seem to be the last thing on the minds of politicians and policy makers. Tamil Nadu is a water starved State but no one asks for an increased budget allocation to save forests, which give life to rivers. Wildlife is another glorified yet neglected area. As human intervention continues to threaten forests and wildlife reporters and photographers of The Hindu train their eye on several ecological havens from across the State and the many perils they face.

 Ennore-Pulicat wetland ecology has seen a steady decline due to thermal power plants and expanding ports.
Despite the protests from the fishermen for decades, the Ennore-Pulicat wetland ecology has seen a steady decline due to thermal power plants and expanding ports. Activists claim that the wetlands lost 667 acres to public sector encroachers since 2015. Ecologist Sultan Ahmed Ismail says, “After thermal plants came to be, flyash started flowing into Kosasthalaiyar river. It has entered the ecosystem to such a level that heavy metals from the flyash have been recorded in marine organisms and even vegetables grown in Ennore. This has led to disruption in the livelihood of fishermen, who depend on it, neighbouring human settlements getting affected and the biodiversity being damaged,” he says. “There is a proposal to expand a port in Kattupalli using 2000 acres of wet lands and filling up of another 2000 acres in the sea. This will cause irreversible damage to the environment and only magnify any disaster,” says G. Sundarrajan of Poovulagin Nanbargal. Solution: The government must stop any further expansion of thermal power plants and ports in the area and ensure that environmental damage caused so far is reversed.
Jaccanaire - Hulikal Durgam corridor, also known as Kallar corridor, is at the Nilgiri foothills near Mettupalayam in Coimbatore district.
A flyover for the elephants that can be a path-breaking initiative has been pending for years government. The Jaccanaire - Hulikal Durgam corridor, also known as Kallar corridor, is at the Nilgiri foothills near Mettupalayam in Coimbatore district. It is a crucial passage for elephants as it links the Brahmagiri–Nilgiris–Eastern Ghats elephant population range with the Nilambur–Silent Valley–Coimbatore population range. The main threat to the corridor is the Mettupalayam - Udhagamandalam Road via Coonoor (part of NH-67) at the very bottleneck area. With over 8,000 vehicles passing through the corridor per day, a flyover from Kallar Bridge to the second hairpin bend of the ghat section is a viable option which can ensure smooth movement of elephants. Solution: Chief Minister handles the Highways portfolio for nearly a decade now. He just needs to sign and sanction the amount.
 Point Calimere sanctuary has seasonal lagoons and migratory birds
Of the many ecological pressures Point Calimere sanctuary has been facing, the shrinkage of inter-tidal mudflats crucial for migratory birds has caused utmost concern to environmentalists. The seasonal lagoons that forms during the rainy season attracts migratory birds in large numbers. But, the wetland management leaves a lot to be desired. The advantages inherent in filling the lagoon with salt water rather than letting it dry have not been understood well by all sections of stakeholders, says S.Balachandran, Deputy Director, Bombay Natural History Society. The Revenue Department, according to Forest Department sources, is yet to complete the survey process of over 20,000 acres of the Great Vedaranyam Swamp. This land is crucial for the Forest Department to declare it as a reserved forest area and thwart start of shrimp farms and salt pans. The Forest Department is facing an uphill task in preventing start of salt pans and shrimp farms in the 20,000 acre of the unsurveyed salt swamp area. Wildlife enthusiasts emphasise that unsurveyed wetlands have to be conserved as crucial alternative feeding grounds. Solution: Management interventions required to sustain intertidal mudflats crucial for migratory birds.
Poaching of migratory species of birds remains the single largest threat at the Oussudu Lake, a biodiversity hotspot and important bird sanctuary on the Coromandal coast.
Poaching of migratory species of birds remains the single largest threat at the Oussudu Lake, a biodiversity hotspot and important bird sanctuary on the Coromandal coast. Spread over 800 hectares, the bird sanctuary is jointly managed by both Tamil Nadu and Puducherry. While the Puducherry government has ramped up infrastructure to promote tourism, conservation efforts continue to struggle against the large scale of poaching. Nomadic communities residing in villages virtually flanking the lake are often involved in hunting and trapping the birds and selling them across the porous borders. Low rate of detection and even lower rate of conviction has made poaching easy. While Villupuram district has beefed up its capacity to combat poaching and recruited anti-poaching watchers, the lack of efforts on the Puducherry side has seriously undermined the gains from conservation presenting a nightmare. Solution: A conservation initiative can bring success only through active participation of the local communities and through joint efforts
One of the largest wetland ecosystems that comprises nearly 80 small and big water bodies and lies within the Palar-Cheyyar river basin is facing the threat of industrialisation. There is a fear that Vedanthangal sanctuary, a classical case of community conservation in the country, is under threat.
One of the largest wetland ecosystems that comprises nearly 80 small and big water bodies and lies within the Palar-Cheyyar river basin is facing the threat of industrialisation. There is a fear that Vedanthangal sanctuary, a classical case of community conservation in the country, is under threat. Thousands of migratory birds flock every year to nest during winter. A few red category industries - pharma companies operate in the vicinity that has led to the soil and water in the region becoming polluted, say activists. A proposal to denotify the core zone was met with strong protests. While the State government clarified that it was only notifying the eco-sensitive zone, activists say such classification is normally done for tiger sanctuaries. The proposal is currently with the National Board for Wild Life. Solution: Retain the core. Focus on strengthening the sanctuary’s ecology and clamp down on industrial pollution around it.
The most shocking news in activist circles in recent times is that of the Forest Department, the guardian of forests, laying a road inside the core habitat of Kalakkad Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve. While pictures surfaced about the use of heavy eqiupment, the administration is tight lipped, other than denying it, and only wants to know the source of the photographs.
The most shocking news in activist circles in recent times is that of the Forest Department, the guardian of forests, laying a road inside the core habitat of Kalakkad Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve. While pictures surfaced about the use of heavy eqiupment, the administration is tight lipped, other than denying it, and only wants to know the source of the photographs. While the activists are mulling over approaching the courts as this road in future could destroy the core habitat of the first tiger reserve in the State, they are waiting for the National Green Tribunal Southern Bench to step in and save the forests from this 30-km road which the forest officials say is for their own vehicles. These are the last remaining patches of rain forests free from human intervention. Solution: The road plan should be abandoned and let the natural growth take over again. The foresters can patrol on foot like before.
Another disturbing development happened close to the boundary of the Srivilliputhur Grizzled Squirrel Sanctuary. With the backing of local politicians, a road was laid for building the resorts of the future. The road and culverts were built without the permission, and unbelievably, the knowledge of the forest officials.
Another disturbing development happened close to the boundary of the Srivilliputhur Grizzled Squirrel Sanctuary. With the backing of local politicians, a road was laid for building the resorts of the future. The road and culverts were built without the permission, and unbelievably, the knowledge of the forest officials. The activists have protested saying the area witnesses elephant movement and that it found mention in the elephant corridors of Wildlife Trust of India, all of which the State government must notify and secure in the near future. The activists also point to the Sigur development in which the Supreme Court has reinforced the right to passage of the elephants and against the illegal resorts. The resort culture in the name of showcasing wildlife to visitors must stop, activists say. Solution: NGT has taken suo motu cognizance and its committee has prepared a report.
The Nilgiris collector had identified hundreds of buildings within the 22-kilometer-long corridor
Though the Supreme Court has upheld the 2011 Madras High Court order notifying the elephant corridor in the Sigur plateau, a number of challenges to ensure that the landscape remains protected remain. The Nilgiris collector had identified hundreds of buildings within the 22-kilometer-long corridor, including 39 resorts which have been closed down. Unregulated tourism continues to be a major threat to the fragile landscape, with conservationists worried that the notification of the corridor could lead to demand skyrocketing for land located just outside the protected area. Many resorts already operate in nearby Achakarai and Masinagudi, which lie outside the corridor, and with the latest developments, activists fear that there could be a rush for land by business owners in the surrounding regions. Many have called for strict regulations to be enacted so that the number of constructions are limited in the Sigur plateau and in both the core and buffer zones of the Mudumalai Tiger Reserve. Solution: The State should shut the illegal resorts forever. It can even ban new buildings in the plateau and show the way in conservation.
A crisis is brewing at Meghamalai Wildlife Sanctuary in Theni district.
A crisis is brewing at Meghamalai Wildlife Sanctuary in Theni district. Grazers from the region, who rear 'Malaimadu'- claimed to be a native cattle breed that grazes on the hilly regions for six months, want the Forest department to permit grazing of 100 cattle of each rearer, who owns a grazing pass, in the reserved forest limits bordering the sanctuary. Cattle grazing inside the wildlife sanctuary is prohibited under the Wildlife Protection Act. However, there have been several instances where the cattle rearers have illegally trespassed into the wildlife sanctuary. Around 35 incidents of fire have taken place inside and near the wildlife sanctuary this year, says Meghamalai Wildlife Warden Sachin Bhosale. Apart from incidents of fire, the illegal grazing will also lead to spread of foot and mouth diseases from the domesticated cattle to the wild animals in the sanctuary, point out conservationists. "Illegal grazing can also destroy the grasslands. There is also a risk of poachers entering the sanctuary under the disguise of being cattle-rearers," says a conservationist. The incidents of fire reported at Grizzled Squirrel Wildlife Sanctuary at Srivilliputtur, has drastically come down in the last two years, after illegal grazing was strictly disallowed there. Now, the grazers are even threatening the forest staff. Solution: Cattle can be allowed to graze in other grazing lands and not inside a wildlife sanctuary.

Printable version | Jun 12, 2022 4:03:33 am | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/ecological-hotspots-under-siege/article33152477.ece