Friday, Nov 21, 2003
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By Our Special Correspondent
This shola forest had shot into media limelight in April last following reports of organised land-grabbing with the connivance and active participation of several top Revenue officials in the area.
The notified area, which extends to 1,281.7419 hectares, falls in Pooppara village in Idukki district.
An official press release issued here said the Mathikettan shola was being notified as a National Park to protect the wildlife and rich biodiversity of the area. The Government has also got ready the draft of two other notifications for protecting Pampadum shola, Mannavan shola, Idivara shola and Pullardi shola, which are all situated in Idukki district, by giving them the status of National Parks.
A senior forest official told The Hindu that the formalities with respect to these sholas were expected to be completed shortly.
One of the two draft notifications pertains to the Pampadum shola, which has an area of just 131.80 hectares.
The other envisages a single National Park by clubbing Mannavan shola, Idivara shola and Pullardi shola, covering a total area of around 750 hectares.
This multiple-shola National Park will be called Anamudi Shola National Park.
Mathikettan was in the centre of a controversy last year following media exposes on large-scale takeover of the pristine shola forests in the area by certain land sharks.
The then District Collector was among the officials placed under suspension from service when an inquiry ordered by the Government pointed to their role in facilitating the encroachment.
This tract, comprising part of the Cardamom Hill Reserve (CHR), had been notified as a `Reserve Forest' by the erstwhile Travancore Government in 1897.
Subsequently, portions of the territory were leased out for cardamom cultivation.
A major problem hampering protection efforts in CHR was a Government notification providing for dual control in the region, with the Revenue Department having charge of the land and the Forest Department, the trees growing there.
Following the controversy over the encroachments, the State Government had issued a notification in October last giving total control of the Mathikettan shola to the Forest Department.
The other sholas too have been under severe threat in recent times.
Even new roads were being laid right through these sholas with full official involvement, flouting conservation laws, it is learnt.
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