New Delhi: Tamil Nadu's application to fell trees close to the baby dam at Mullaperiyar is still under the consideration of the Supreme Court. The Central Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC), too, has not given its approval to cut the trees in the forest area.
The Kerala forest department apparently granted Tamil Nadu permission to axe 15 trees even as the Supreme Court and MoEFCC are yet to make a decision. The issue has snowballed into a controversy within and outside the Kerala Legislative Assembly after the State Minister for Forest, A K Saseendran, revealed that the approval was granted without the knowledge of the government. The forest department's decision granting permission to Tamil Nadu was later put on hold.
The Supreme Court, in its orders in 2006 and 2014, had concurred with the proposal to strengthen the dam. Tamil Nadu had in 2017 argued that 23 trees should be felled to reinforce the dam. Though notice was issued to Kerala based on Tamil Nadu's request to cut trees, the case has not been taken up for consideration.
Responding to the notice, Kerala took a stand against cutting the trees. The State pointed out that it was not averse to strengthening the dam, but the issue involved rules pertaining to forest, environment and protection of wildlife.
In response to a petition filed by Kothamangalam resident Jo Joseph, Tamil Nadu submitted that the issue of cutting trees has been under the consideration of the court. The three-member Mullaperiyar Supervisory Committee, however, recommended the felling of trees in an effort to reinforce the dam. The panel also recommended a joint inspection of the site by the representatives of Tamil Nadu and Kerala.
(The three-member committee, chaired by a representative of the Central Water Commission, has representatives of Tamil Nadu and Kerala as its members.)
The MoEFCC's permission is mandatory for axing the trees since they are located within the Periyar Tiger Reserve. Additionally, the MoEFCC would grant permission for such activity only on the recommendations of the Central and State wildlife boards.
The ministry has likely not yet received any recommendation for chopping the trees.