Off late, Munnar has grabbed headlines for being destroyed thanks to rampant commercialisation of what was once a pristine piece of greenery.

 

Nestled in the Western Ghats, Munnar has been the favourite place for honeymooners, family vacations, trekkers and nature enthusiasts. It is now bearing the brunt of our desire to see ‘nature’ but not protect nature.

 

 

MP Rajeev Chandrasekhar raised the issues of the serious and wanton destruction of the Ecologically sensitive Western Ghat region, in particular to forest lands in Munnar during the Zero Hour in the Rajya Sabha  on April 5.

 

This area is facing massive land encroachment and illegal constructions by influential persons supported by the local politicians including that of the people’s representatives of ruling front in the state

 

Speaking on this serious issue, MP Rajeev Chandrasekhar said “This represents a serious threat to the ecological protection of Western Ghats, in four states namely Kerala, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Goa. Munnar is one of the most famous hill stations in Western Ghats, located at 1800 m above MSL in Idukki District. Munnar as the name indicates is the origin of 3 rivers. Munnar and adjoining areas like Cardamom Hill Reserve are identified as Eco-Sensitive Zone. This area is facing massive land encroachment and illegal constructions by influential persons supported by the local politicians including that of the people’s representatives of ruling front in the state.”

 

There are three national parks within this area and the legal status of Munnar and Cardamom Hill is of forest. Hundreds of tourist resorts and illegal buildings are coming up in Munnar and surrounding areas, including the ecologically sensitive zones and Cardamom Reserve areas.From land mafia to construction mafia, there exists a whole nexus which is slowly eating into Kerala’s famed hill station. Other reasons that are contributing to this degradation is the destructive developments in Western Ghats, the increased human settlements, deforestation and fragmentation of the forests and the destruction of hills and rocks.

 

 

MP Chandrasekhar  further highlighted the extent of the encroachment in Munnar. He says, “Pallivasal, Kannan Devan Hill (KDH) and Chinnakanal are the 3 villages in which the massive illegal constructions and encroachments are at its peak. The pristine government lands are being encroached by individuals and obtaining assignment certificates from local revenue authorities. In 1993, the Central Govt has given permission for the assignments of some forest lands but even after the same, more forest lands are being encroached and such encroachments are being regularised without prior permission from the Central Government.”

 

The MP mentioned how there were more than 400 resorts constructed in and around the region and reiterated the ruling that the construction of commercial buildings / resorts within forest lands without prior permission from the Central Government is illegal. For this, he said, local political leaders, in both ruling and opposition front are responsible.

 

 

Showcasing the extent of corruption, MP Chandrasekhar highlighted how “Last month the State Land Revenue Commissioner had given a report to the Government that it has become impossible for revenue officials to examine bogus records as they are facing life threat from local politicians. Report also states that the ecological restoration of Munnar is hopelessly barred by political interferences. This report has to be viewed seriously. It seems the rule of law itself is in peril in Kerala.”

 

Further,  he requested the government to take strict action against the violators of the FC Act in Munnar and CHR; to initiate a sustainable tourism master plan for Munnar for protecting the responsible tourism industry and to accord national importance to the Munnar and Cardamom Hill Reserve as they must be protected as eco-sensitive Zones, by defeating the petty local political interests.


(Rajeev Chandrasekhar is also the Chairman of Jupiter Capital, which has investments in Asianet News Media & Entertainment Pvt Ltd that publishes Asianet Newsable.)