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1,200 rubber trees in the buffer zone
assigned for tapping
Environmentalists say the move goes
KOTTAYAM: The decision of the Kerala Tourism Development Corporation (KTDC) to assign rubber trees for tapping in the Kumarakom Bird Sanctuary, one of the premier sanctuaries for migratory birds in the country, has drawn flak from environmentalists.
The Kumarakom property, now under the KTDC, involves 36.49 hectares of land on the shores of the Kavanar at Kumarakom which forms part of the original estate developed by the Baker family.
The KTDC had purchased 41.93 hectares from the owner of the property Robert Alexander George Baker in 1982. Later, 5.22 hectares from this property was given to the Taj group.
The property was developed by the Baker family as a rubber and coconut plantation, but it now houses a rich repository of diverse fauna.
The property now in possession of the KTDC has been grouped among the 9.18-hectare tourism zone, where it operates a hotel; 14.79-hectare buffer zone; and the 12.51-hectare core area. The corporation has now assigned more than 1,200 rubber trees in the buffer zone for tapping.
The KTDC maintains that it has given only the trees on the sides of the pathway in the buffer zone and between the buffer zone and the core area for tapping as it can augment income generation from the property.
However, environmentalists fear that this initiative will meet with the same fate as the steps taken by the KTDC officials earlier. One of the ‘innovative' initiatives taken a few years ago was to sell the rubber trees in the sanctuary, which had to be discontinued on intervention from the environmentalists.
Later, they decided to sell coconut from the trees on the property. This also resulted in a tragedy as the contractor took the easy way out to clear the undergrowth by burning it.
Ecologists fear the latest initiative too will end in a tragedy. They point out that the move went against the stipulation since activities within the buffer zone are restricted and tapping cannot be allowed.
Meanwhile, it has been pointed out that the initiative of the KTDC for income generation through awareness creation, though launched with much fanfare, has remained a non-starter.
The Rs.1.7-crore Kumarakom Bird Sanctuary Development Project was launched by Minister for Tourism Kodiyeri Balalakrishnan on January 13. This scheme was to include a centre for creating awareness on birds and also three observation towers for bird watching.
One of these was earmarked exclusively for ornithologists and researchers. Facilities for children too were expected to be provided under this project.
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