Tamil Nadu

Illegal road in Grizzled Squirrel Wildlife Sanctuary poses threat to wildlife, say activists

A road being laid within the eco-sensitive zone of the Grizzled Squirrel Wildlife Sanctuary, without permission from the Forest Department, could pose a threat to the movement of wildlife, activists say.

If not stopped in the initial stages, the road being laid, which is backed by local politicians from an opposition party, would eventually lead to the mushrooming of farmhouses and resorts, block the movement of elephants and harm ecology and wildlife, activists warn.

Based on a complaint from activist A.S. Murugan, the Wildlife Warden of the Grizzled Squirrel Wildlife Sanctuary, Srivilliputtur, P. Mohammed Shabab, has ordered an enquiry by an official in the rank of Assistant Conservator of Forest.

Mr. Murugan said while the eco-sensitive zone in the sanctuary was up to 5 km from the border of the reserve forest, the road, nearly 5 km-long, had been planned along the “zero point” of the zone, abutting the reserved forest areas in Kottaimalai and Pullupathi beats, along the foothills of the Western Ghats.

“When we heard about the issue, a group of environmental activists, including advocates from the Madras High Court visited the site a few days ago. We observed that wildlife, including elephants, leopards, sloth bear, deer and dholes, were moving in the area,” he said.

Stating that the site was surrounded by hills on three sides, he said rainwater from the hills would drain into the valley, and there were several small and big ponds used by the wild animals.

Culverts constructed

M. Suresh, an advocate, said that after they took up the issue with the Block Development Office in Rajapalayam and the Department of Forests, the work on the road had been expedited. So far, a few culverts had been constructed over the wild streams.

“We found that four heavy earthmoving machineries had been deployed to level the ground for laying the road. An official in the BDO office claimed ignorance about the need to get permission from the Central Empowered Committee of the National Board of Wildlife for taking up any construction work in the eco-sensitive zone," he said.

A forest official admitted that the bridges had been constructed in the eco-sensitive zone. However, no roads had been laid. Though no permission had been sought from the Department of Forest, the official said that they needed to get some documents from the local authorities.

The activists wondered as to why so much of money was being spent to lay a road where no one lived.

“During the windy season, any crop cultivated along the valley would be ripped off. We suspect that someone is trying to promote real-estate and construction of farm houses. They are also attempting to divert the natural flow of streams to suit their requirements,” Mr. Murugan alleged.

Close to the planned road, the Forest Department is digging trenches to prevent elephant movement which proves wildlife movement in the area. “Even a boundary marking stone of the Forest Department has been damaged,” Mr. Suresh said.

According to the complaint, the proposed road was in violation of the Revenue Standing Order, which stipulated that any activity should be carried out beyond 40 m of the Reserved Forest boundary.

“The road will interrupt wildlife movement, promote poaching and also lead to man-animal conflict like in the Coimbatore forest division,” another activist said.

This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor

Printable version | May 8, 2021 4:48:25 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/illegal-road-in-sanctuary-poses-threat-to-wildlife/article32538417.ece

Next Story