The manager of a private estate belonging to the son-in-law of a Tamil Nadu minister has been arrested by the forest department for allegedly trying to expand and convey a road running through a forest reserve in the Nilgiris forest division.
Illegal road built through forest
Conservationists are calling for action against the owner of a private tea plantation in the Kotagiri forest range of the Nilgiris, as well as forest officials, following the arrest of the estate manager and two drivers for illegally building a road 1.7 km through a forest reserve area near Kilkotagiri.
The tea plantation is owned by the son-in-law of Tamil Nadu’s tourism minister and is home to endangered species such as hornbills, vultures, leopards and elephants. Despite confirmation from the forest department that the road was illegal, only the administrator and two vehicle drivers have been arrested so far.
Conservationists are demanding that the farm owner and forest officials suspected of complicity also be held accountable for the environmental damage caused by illegal road construction.
Conservationists report that the property, which is home to endangered species such as hornbills, vultures, leopards and elephants, is owned by the close family of a minister of state. Despite confirmation from the forest department that the road built through the farm was illegal, conservationists say no action has been taken against the farm owner.
According to The Hindu, S. Gowtham, the District Forest Officer for the Nilgiris division, confirmed that the forest department had seized the earth digger and road roller used in the illegal construction and registered the three people involved under the Act. Tamil Nadu Forest Act, 1882, and the Forest Conservation Act, 1980.
Gowtham stated that permission had been granted several years ago to the estate management to establish a right of way through the forest reserve, covering a distance of approximately thirty feet. However, the property management had undertaken maintenance and expansion of the road without obtaining the approval of the forest department, which led to the registration of a case against it.
Environmental groups express concern
The Confederation of Nilgiris Environmental Associations (CEAN) has raised concerns over the lack of action against the owner of the Medanad Estate, allegedly belonging to the son-in-law of a Tamil Nadu minister, after an illegal road was constructed through a reserve forest to the estate.
While a case was filed against the property manager and two vehicle drivers, no action was taken against the property owner. CEAN has written to the District Collector and the District Forest Officer (Nilgiris division) questioning the lack of action.
CEAN alleges that property management used heavy equipment to expand an existing road through the forest reserve and onto the property, resulting in the destruction of Shola shrubs and trees within the property.
Trees were also set on fire near the waterfall and the watering hole where wild animals regularly come to drink water.
CEAN has raised questions about whether permission for the use of heavy equipment was granted and why no action was taken against the revenue department officials who recommended the permit.
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