MAY 27

SOS to Centre to save Kerala's forests


THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Opposition leader V S Achuthanandan has in a letter to Union Minister of Environment T R Baalu sought his intervention in saving Kerala's forests as the state was "being denuded" by some avaricious people.

Achuthanandan, quoting the recent encroachment of Western Ghats' shola forests in Idukki, said his visit to the spot had proved that "large tracts of forests had been set afire. A new road, about 10 kilometres long, had been built by encroachers. I could see a sophisticated excavator in the middle of the forests."

The CPM leader said the Shola forests in Mathikettan in Idukki district had been termed a "rich biodiversity area". The denudation and cultivation of cash crops in the forests had been done with the patronage of a party of the ruling United Democratic Front. He said though the chief minister had assured the people the encroachers would be evicted, the pledge was difficult to implement because of the heavy political pressure. Mass transfer of 100 revenue officials for their complicity in the encroachment from district in fact made any inquiry difficult.

Achuthanandan said Mathikettan was not the only forest region being desecrated by land grabbers. Pooyamkutty, another bio-rich area of the southern Western Ghats, faced similar encroachment on a mass scale under the garb of helping adivasis. The tactic of the grabbers is to clear the undergrowth to cultivate cardamom.

"If the current trend is allowed to continue, it will definitely lead to an ecological disaster in the Western Ghats described one of the 18 bio-diversity hotspots in the world. There have been reports that around 10,000 acres of forest had been encroached during the last year."