A direct road to Parambikulam through Kerala is unlikely to get the necessary clearance from the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests owing to the opposition from the environmentalists in Tamil Nadu, who fear that it will adversely affect the water resources in the catchment area of the Parambikulam-Aliyar river water project.
At present, the only road from Kerala to Parambikulam is through Ambrapalayam, Aanamalai, Vettaikaranpudur and Sethumadai in Tamil Nadu.
Chief Minister Oommen Chandy himself had taken up the issue after he was shown black flags by MDMK and Periyar Dravida Kazhakam cadre while going to Parambikulam to inaugurate a police station in September 2011, in the wake of the Mullaperiyar issue.
The demand for a direct road from Kerala gained momentum again after the Supreme court banned tourism in the core areas of tiger reserves and Tamil Nadu declaring the only road to the Parambikulam Tiger Reserve as core area.
“During the rule of the LDF Government, a committee was formed to look into the issue of laying a road to Parambikulam via Nelliampathy. The committee discussed the issue and it was found that there was the need for clearing rocks in many places to build the road. Blasting of rocks inside the forests is not allowed under the Forest Conservation Act and therefore, we had to drop it,” said V Chenthamarakshan MLA.
“However, we propose to pursue the idea for a direct road. But the need for numerous clearances from the Union Environment Ministry stands as a hurdle,” he said. “An environment impact assessment (EIA) study of the proposed road connecting Chemmanampathy in Muthalamada panchayat and Thekkady in the Parambikulam Tiger Reserve through Kerala was undertaken by scientist S Sankar of the Kerala Forest Research Institute (KFRI), Peechi,” said O P Kaler, Chief Conservator of Forests (Wildlife) (Northern circle) and Director of the Parambikulam Tiger Reserve.
“The main aim of constructing a road from Chemmanampathy to Parambikulam is to have a direct access to Kerala. As the proposal involves diversion of forest land for non-forestry purposes, an EIA study was conducted which opposed the construction of Chemmanampathy-Parambikulam road. The proposed 40-km road to Parambikulam through Kerala consisted of three stretches: Chemmanampathy-Thekkady (8.8 km), Thekkady-Peruvaripallam (17.6 km) and Peruvaripallam -Parambikulam (17.6 km).
Though the subject committee of the Kerala Assembly had made a proposal for a road to Paramabikulam from Chemmanampathy in 1988, the government had turned it down. The Union Environment Ministry had also opposed the plan as Parambikulam was home to 20-odd tigers, said Kaler.
“The Forest Department has to give a report if the road is to materialise, he said. Subsequently, the State Wild Life Board has to recommend it to the National Wild Life Board which in turn will refer the matter to the Supreme court. Finally it has to secure the clearance under the provisions of the Forest Conservation Act, he added.