The Hindu reports a group of private landowners constructed a 4 km road between Anamada and Periyashola by encroaching on forestland, causing severe damage to the fragile ecosystem of the Parambikulam Tiger Reserve and the adjoining Nelliampathy hill ranges.
The road, which facilitates tourist access to environmentally fragile private estates spread over 782 acres and located between Parambikulam and Nelliampathy, was constructed in a clandestine manner with the connivance of forest officials of the Kollangode range, said Wildlife Protection Society of India’s South India coordinator S. Guruvayurappan.
The local tribal community was under the impression that the work was part of an old proposal of the State government to lay a 40 km road to Parambikulam without entering the Pollachi region of Tamil Nadu.
The Wildlife Protection Society of India sought the urgent intervention of the Forest Minister and Principal Chief Conservator of Forests. “It was earlier a wild path used only by forest officials and workers of a set of private estates at Uravanpadi, near Periyashola.
The earlier single owner of the leased forestland at Uravanpadi acquired the deed title using dubious means and sold portions of the land to different people. Now they have all come together with the support of a section of forest officials to lay the road to attract tourists to the facilities they plan to arrange in the controversial land,’’ Mr. Guruvayurappan said.
While Chief Forest Conservator N. Chadrasekhar said the issue had not come to his notice so far, Nenmara Divisional Forest Officer K. Sashikumar said the department already detected the encroachments and criminal proceedings would soon be initiated against those responsible for it.
“The private estates on leased forestland are located close to a critical tiger habitat with a high population of endangered Nilgiri tahr. The area was vulnerable to poaching for a long period of time. How can these private parties construct roads on their own,’’ asks environmentalist P.S. Panicker.
“The area is home to many endemic and endangered flora and fauna, including Nigiri Marten and Lion Tailed Macaque. Hitherto, there was no public access to this region,’’ Mr. Guruvayurappan said.
According to him, the government must act urgently against the constructors of the road apart from subjecting land records of the private estates to legal scrutiny. The 4 km forest road was built as extension of the existing 14 km road between Pulayanpara at Nelliampathy and Anamada. From Periyashola, trekking through difficult forest areas would provide access to Parambikulam. The tiger reserve has very restricted entry of visitors and accommodation is available only with the Forest Department.