KERALA

Panel moots Sabarimala’s exclusion from ESA

Inclusion of Sabarimala in ESA will affect the development of the pilgrim centre. Photo shows Lord Ayyappa Temple.— Photo: Leju Kamal

Inclusion of Sabarimala in ESA will affect the development of the pilgrim centre. Photo shows Lord Ayyappa Temple.— Photo: Leju Kamal  

six-member village-level committee appointed by the State government has excluded the sacred grove (Poonkavanam) of Sabarimala and Pampa from the purview of the Ecologically Sensitive Area (ESA) in view of its importance as a pilgrim centre.

The committee was appointed by the government to prepare a survey number-wise list of ESAs in Perinad village that houses Sabarimala. The government had appointed village-level committees in all 119 villages across the State that come under the ESA identified by the Kasturirangan Committee for the conservation of Western Ghats.

The village-level committee, chaired by Perinad grama panchayat president V.N. Sudhakaran, has submitted its report to the Director of Survey on Saturday, according to official sources.

The report has marked Sabarimala as a ‘pilgrimage zone.’

Mr. Sudhakaran is of the opinion that including Sabarimala in ESA will freeze all pilgrim-amenity work as part of the Sabarimala master plan at Sabarimala, Pampa, and Nilackal.

Sabarimala forests do not come under any survey number and hence the committee has earmarked it as ‘unsurveyed.’ Forests as well as occupied forest land do not have any survey number.

The State government has also appointed a three-member panel chaired by Oommen V. Oommen to study the impact of the report on Western Ghats prepared by the high-level working group chaired by K. Kasturirangan.

The stand to be adopted by the Centre as well as the Oommen V. Oommen panel on the village-level committee’s findings on Sabarimala holds the key to development of the pilgrim centre which is visited by almost double the State’s population every year.

Experts say that stress should be given on eco-friendly development projects at Sabarimala, a major portion of which comes under the Periyar Tiger Reserve.

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