The administrative and financial sanction for improvement and maintenance of a illegal road not in use for decades in the core zone of the Srivilliputhur-Megamalai Tiger Reserve has shocked activists in the southern districts.
Some of them have petitioned the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) to stop any improvement work on this “illegal” and “non-existent” road in the core habitat of the newly formed reserve.
Activists say the sanction was accorded during the previous AIADMK rule in February when ₹51.15 crore was allocated for upgrading existing forest roads as bituminous surface roads with cross drainage works. Of this, ₹1.2 crore had been sanctioned for the improvement of the road between Upper Manalar camp shed and Upper Manalar-Old Vellimalai in Theni district for a stretch of 2.2 km.
“The irony is that it is a dilapidated old coop road of 27 km used for protection, perambulation by the Forest Department. The Megamalai reserve forest notification clearly states that there exists only a 1 m right of way on this entire stretch of the coop road of 27 km near Oothakudisa, and, that too, to a length of just 666.8 m. This shows the 1 m right of way is a reserved forest that has been notified as a tiger reserve,” according to the petition submitted to the NTCA.
The fifth tiger reserve in Tamil Nadu, notified on February 8, is crucial in two respects. It will maintain vital forest contiguity between the Periyar Tiger Reserve in Kerala and the Kanniyakumari forests in the extreme south. It will be an extremely important buffer for the spill-over tigers of the Periyar Tiger Reserve.
In the petition, the activists said a high ridge that divides the Periyar Tiger Reserve and the Srivilliputhur-Megamalai Tiger Reserve is the core zone of both reserves covered with dense, evergreen forests.