Illegal road in Grizzled Squirrel Wildlife Sanctuary threatens wildlife: activists

No permission from Forest department; inquiry ordered.

An illegal road coming up within the eco-sensitive zone of Grizzled Squirrel Wildlife Sanctuary, without any permission from the Forest Department could pose a threat to the movement of wildlife, say activists.

If not stopped in the initial stages, the road being laid, backed by local politicians, would eventually lead to mushrooming of farm houses and resorts, block elephant movement and harm ecology and wildlife, activists warned.

Based on a complaint from an activist, A.S. Murugan, the Wildlife Warden of Grizzled Squirrel Wildlife Sanctuary, Srivilliputtur, P. Mohammed Shabab, has ordered an enquiry by an official in the rank of Assistant Conservator of Forest.

Mr. Murugan said that while the eco-sensitive zone in the sanctuary was up to 5 km from the border of the reserve forest, the new road for nearly five km had been planned along the “zero point” of the zone, abutting the Reserved Forest areas in Kottaimalai and Pullupathi beats along the foothills of the Western Ghats.

“When we heard about the issue, a group of environmental activists, including advocates from Madras High Court visited the site few days back. We observed that the wildlife, including elephants, leopards, sloth bears, deer and dholes, was moving in the area,” he said.

Stating that the said site was surrounded by hills on three sides, he said the rain water from all the three hills would drain into this valley and there were several small to big ponds that cater to the wild animals.

M .Suresh, an advocate, said that after they took up the issue with the Block Development Office in Rajapalayam and Department of Forest.

“We found that four heavy earth moving machineries were deployed to level the ground for laying the road. An official in the BDO office claimed ignorance about the need to get permission from the Central Empowered Committee of National Board of Wildlife for taking up any construction work in the eco-sensitive zone,” he said.

A forest official admitted that the bridges were constructed in the eco-sensitive zone. However, no roads have been formed so far. Though no permission has been sought from the Department of Forest, the official said that they need to get some documents from the local authorities.

The activists asked why so much of money was being invested to construct a road where no one lived nor any agricultural work could be taken up.

“During windy season, any crop that is cultivated along the valley would be ripped off. We suspect that someone is trying to promote real-estate for constructing farm houses. They are also attempting to divert the natural flow of streams to suit their requirements,” Mr. Murugan charged.

Close to the planned road, the Forest department is cutting trenches to prevent elephant movement “Even the boundary marking stone of the Forest Department has been damaged,” Mr. Suresh said.

According to the complaint, the proposed road was in violation of the Revenue Standing Order that stiplulated that any activity should be carried out beyond 40 metres of the Reserved Forest boundary.

“The road will interrupt with the wildlife movement, promote poaching and also lead to man-animal conflict like in Coimbatore forest division,” another activist said.

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