Thiruvananthapuram/Thodupuzha: The government has initiated steps to declare 364.39 hectares of land in Chinnakanal, Idukki district, as a reserve forest (protected forest area). This area, to be named Chinnakanal Reserve, will include Papathichola and Suryananelli in Udumbanchola taluk. In September, the Forest Department issued a gazette notification regarding this, with the final notification expected later.
The Forest Department has argued that the region, including the catchment area of the Anayirankal reservoir, serves as the habitat for elephants and other wild animals. The move to declare it a reserve forest is aimed at safeguarding the forest wealth, it said. The notification pointed out that some private individuals had the area earmarked for declaration as a reserve forest.
Meanwhile, farmers' organisations have alleged that the Forest Department has kept the move to declare the area as a reserve forest a secret, raising suspicions. If declared a reserve forest, farmers using water from the area for agriculture would be adversely affected. Some farmers also utilise the area as a pathway. Once it attains reserve forest status, stringent restrictions will be imposed under forest conservation laws.
The demolition in April 2017 by the Revenue Department of a cross, a shed and a building nearby, constructed after encroaching upon government land at Papathichola, sparked a major controversy. Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan disowned the action of the Revenue Department.
“If there are efforts to designate the areas where people have been living for ages as reserve forests, there will be opposition. Idukki is a district of migrants, and any government attempting to enforce laws made by officials that adversely affect the people will not receive my support," said MM Mani, MLA.