In a pioneering move, Tamil Nadu chief minister J Jayalalithaa announced that she would be heading an exclusive Authority for the Preservation of Ecosensitive and Heritage Areas, to be formed to protect the forests and areas surrounding falls and hills that have seen degradation from various quarters over the years. The idea that follows a Madras High Court order listing certain dos and don’ts for protecting the scenic Courtallam falls, which also have cultural, spiritual, historic and literary significance in the state, will go a long way in environmental conservation, preventing rampant vandalisation of other water falls and places in and around hills.
Though several bodies had been set up in the past to protect the environment, nothing much could be done to prevent people from conciously and inadvertently causing damage to the fragile ecosystems and rich heritage of the tourist spots. Dealing with brigands and poachers who wreak havoc in our forests and hills for profit is one thing that our forest department and other enforcement agencies could manage quite efficiently. But reining in tourists from crossing the barriers is something that has not been done. Of course, it should be done through education and creating awareness about ecology.
But unless clear rules are stipulated and enforced, the picnic and tourist spots would turn into garbage dumps, leading to widespread pollution. The proposed authority in Tamil Nadu would go a long way in managing human intrusion into the areas in and around forests and water falls without upsetting Mother Nature. In the long run, it would enable the state to conserve its natural wealth like forests. But then, since forests are contiguous with various states having their own territories, enforcement of laws, say ban on plastics in an eco-sensitive region bordering the neighbouring state, can be more effective if only every state has the same rule. In fact, taking a cue from Tamil Nadu, every state could set up a similar authority.