Jairam Ramesh tells Kerala govt to act against Munnar encroachment

Last Updated 04 July 2010, 05:52 IST

"I would like to request that the recommendations of the central team not be diluted in any manner...the forests need to be protected because of the multiple benefits they bring to the people," the Union Minister said recently in a letter to Kerala Chief Minister V S Achuthanandan.

He emphasised, "I am also sure you will agree with me that encroachments should not be facilitated in any way."

Ramesh's observations came following the state government's decision to set up a three-member panel consisting of the principal secretaries of forest, revenue and local-self government to study the report prepared by the Central team alleging that the state government has violated the Forest Conservation Act (FRA) in Munnar region.

The four-member team headed by K Subhakar Reddy, Regional Chief Conservator of Forest, Bangalore, had recommended that the state should notify 17,348 acres of forest in its possession in Munnar as reserved forest.

The panel was set up by the Union Minister to investigate into alleged encroachments and violation of the Forest Conservation Act (FRA) and whether land at Kanan Devan Hills, Munnar is forest land and attracts the provisions of the Act.

The team, after perusing the records, said the land is governed by the Kannan Devan Hills Act and there are no provisions for filing cases for tree felling. There are only provisions for summary eviction in case of encroachments.

To ensure adequate protection, the land needs to be brought under an effective legal framework, it said.

It also identified forest encroachments in the Kuttiyar valley and Seven Malay and said that that although there were no large-scale encroachments in Munnar, records indicate that there had been such attempts in the past.

"The land ordered to be distributed by Revenue Department in the Kuttiyar valley for a housing scheme comes well within the meaning of the term forests defined by the Supreme Court.

"Any move to convert it for non-forestry purposes without the clearance of the Central government amounts to contempt of the Supreme Court," the report said. MORE PTI AJ  
The 23-page report was prepared by Reddy, K B Thampi, Inspector-General of Forests from Environment Ministry, Prakriti Srivastava, Joint Director (Wildlife) and Ullas Karanth, wildlife expert.

It asked the state government to ensure that a master plan for the development of the area is made so that the ecology of the Munnar region is least disturbed.

The team quoted the Munnar MLA and the Idukki Collector who had alleged that there were encroachments by Tata-owned Kanan Devan Hills Plantations Company and that "large areas are left out of the proposed notification of the Forest Department purposefully to benefit the KDHPC."

However, company officials maintained that "the lands in their possession are based on the Land Board Award and are open to any verification and that they are not in possession of any extra land," the report said.

(Published 04 July 2010, 05:42 IST)

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