Protest over road via elephant corridor (State of Kerala, India)


E. M. Manoj, The Hindu

Date Published

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A protest is mounting against the move of the Thirunelly grama panchayat to launch tarring work on a forest path passing through forestland in the Begur forest range under the North Wayanad forest division.

The grama panchayat has started development work on the 1.7-km forest path, including road formation work and tarring, at a cost of Rs. 60 lakh including Rs. 45 lakh from the MLA fund of O.R. Kelu, MLA.

N. Badhusha, president, Wayanad Prakruthi Samrakshna Samiti, and C. S. Dharmaraj, secretary, Our Own Nature, said in separate representations to the Union Ministry of Forest and Environment (MOEF) that the current forest path, which connects Panavally and Appappara villages, passes through one of the nine critical elephant corridors of the country, the Thirunelly Kudrakode elephant corridor.

Forest Act

The construction work was against the norms of the Forest Conservation Act, 1980 and guidelines of the MoEF in 2005, they said.

The path was currently being used only for jeep services since it is just a rubble stone soling road. This critical corridor is also frequented by tigers and leopards, said Mr. Badusha.

Panavally is an agrarian village and a check-dam beside the forest path across the Papanasini river serves as drinking water source for the elephant population in the region.

Man-animal conflict

The move to develop the forest path would be a perfect recipe for instigating man-animal conflicts in that region, he said.

The so-called development work has been started owing to the pressures of local taxi operators and resort owners in the area to cut short distances to Thirunelly, they alleged.

They called for a ban on tipper lorry movement on the path and tarring of the road.

However, Mr. Kelu told The Hindu that the road development work through a teak plantation of the Forest Department would not hamper free movement of wildlife through the proposed Kudrakode-Thirunelly elephant corridor as the proposed project under way was nearly 2 km away from the site.

The path has been used by villagers for the past many decades.

‘Now it takes a 15-km journey through the forest of the North Wayanad forest division and the Wayanad wildlife sanctuary to reach Kutta in Karnataka from Mananthavady.

“But when the new road opens it would reduce to 1.7-km the journey through forest area and it would help to reduce the wildlife stress and man animal conflict,” he said.

Moreover, the proposed Thalassery -Mananthavady- Mysuru railway line is also passing beside the road, he added.