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TDB to get forest land at Nilackal today

Staff Reporter

Marks an end to conflicts with Forest Department

PATHANAMTHITTA: The allotment of 110 hectares of forestland to the Travancore Devaswom Board (TDB) at Nilackal is considered a milestone in the State Government's efforts to provide basic facilities to Sabarimala pilgrims by being the facilitator of the forestland required for the same.

Grossly inadequate facilities at Sabarimala have been causing much hardship to the pilgrims who come from different parts of the country for the annual Mandalam-Makaravilakku festival season. The TDB, the administrative body of the Ayyappa shrine situated in the Periyar Tiger Reserve, and the Forest Department has been at loggerheads over the issue for the past two decades. The TDB has been blaming the Forest Department for creating hurdles on its endeavour to provide basic facilities in Sabarimala and surrounding areas. But the Forest Department justified its stand citing the Supreme Court order that prohibits any non-forest activity in reserve forests.

Various high-level committees, including the Public Accounts Committee of Parliament, had expressed shock over the `inhuman' treatment being meted out to the pilgrims.

PMO intervenes

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had taken special interest in the issue. Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister T.K.A.Nair was specially deputed to address the problems relating to the development of Sabarimala.

Mr. Nair, who visited Sabarimala and Nilackal a few months ago, had apprised the Union Government of the need to allot a few acres of land in the Periyar Tiger Reserve, besides the allotment of 110 hectares of land at Nilackal for setting up a base camp. The National Wildlife Board had cleared the proposal to allot 12.5 hectares of land in Periyar Tiger Reserve for various facilities at Sannidhanam.

The Chief Minister Oommen Chandy will hand over the land transfer documents to the TDB at a function to be presided by Devaswom Minister K.C.Venugopal at Nilackal on Thursday.

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