- 6,000 acres of public land in Devikulam, Udumbanchola taluks is in the hands of land sharks.
- Resorts and massive constructions are mushrooming in the ecologically sensitive hill station.
Hundreds of tourist resorts and illegal buildings are coming up in Munnar and surrounding areas, including the ecologically sensitive zones and Cardamom Reserve areas. Despite the attempts to stop the illegal constructions, land grab and blatant violations of existing rules are playing havoc in the scenic hill station.
In 2010, Kerala High Court put forth restrictions on big constructions in Munnar. Following this, MG Rajamanickam, the then sub collector of Devikulam, served stop memo to many buildings under construction. Despite this, the builders went on with constructions as revenue officials looked the other way.
The High Court had banned constructions above 3 storied buildings in Munnar. But the construction mafia sidestepped the ban and built massive buildings that went above 10-15 stories in the ecologically sensitive area. Land grabbers and illegal construction lobby thrived as the authorities feigned ignorance.
When Sreeram Venkatrama, the present sub-collector of Devikulam started crackdown on illegal constructions, some political parties including the CPM came out against him. The sub-collector had served stop memo to 45 big resorts and buildings in the area.
After the high-level meeting on Monday convened to discuss Munnar land grab, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan warned stern action against encroachments and illegal constructions. "No encroachments will be entertained in Munnar," Pinarayi Vijayan said. "But the farmers who have been living there for centuries will not be evicted," he added.
The high-level meeting also decided to regulate the construction of resorts in the hill station. Even though the Chief Minister claimed that the government knows the extent of encroachments in Munnar, the Revenue and Forest departments do not have an exact data. Reports quoting survey officials say that at least 6,000 acres must have gone into the hands of land sharks in Devikulam and Udumbanchola taluks.
The special task force appointed by the previous LDF government in 2007 had taken back, as per a reply in the State Assembly, 4819.94 acres from land grabbers who illegally occupied public land. But after the 2010, in the absence of a strict enforcement and surveillance mechanism, a considerable portion of the land taken back from the encroachers went back into the hands of land sharks.
Kerala State Assembly Subcommittee that looked into the environmental issues of the famous tourism destination urged the government to demolish all constructions in violation of environment rules and to revoke land titles issued flouting norms. It also recommended stalling all the ongoing constructions above the stipulated height.
Now, the question is how the Pinarayi Vijayan government would take up the complicated task of saving Munnar from land mafia.
Will the government form a special task force to the job in a time-bound manner? Well, the Chief Minister was non-committal about it. He evaded the question and repeated that stern action would be taken. But with out a fool-proof action plan, the hill station would remain in the hands of land sharks.
Last Updated 31, Mar 2018, 6:38 PM IST