COIMBATOR: Officials of Forest department visited Nandhagopal Bridge near Coonoor where National Highways is carrying out road expansion work after elephants faced difficulty in crossing the road.
Based on the instruction from Nilgiris district collector SP Amrith, a team of officials from Nilgiris forest division, National Highways, Revenue and Salem Railway Division conducted an inspection to ascertain ownership of the land. The collector ordered the inspection after a video of the elephants facing obstruction surfaced recently. The video showed elephants struggling to enter the forest as cinstruction materials were dumped on the road. Considering the difficulties faced by the wild elephants, Forest department ordered suspension of the expansion work. Further, highways officials were told not to construct a retaining wall wherever elephant movements are noticed. Also, they have been told to construct ramps and leave enough space to facilitate movement of animals.
The forest department has also requested the highway department officials to get permission for carrying out road widening or take up construction work in forest department land.
Sources in National Highways department said, "We have given two to three meter passage for the wild elephants to cross at the right side and four to five metres at the slope. We have also shown the place to the Field Director D Venkatesh. We are planning to increase road width from 7 metres to 10 metres since it was a narrow curve and we will soon strengthen the soil after completing the road expansion work and help the wild elephants move peacefully."
"We started road expansion work at Nandhagopal bridge only after completing a survey with the help of revenue officials and now we are carrying out survey again to clear the doubt of the forest department officials," he added.
The Nilgiris forest department will submit a status report before the Madurai Bench of Madras High Court, which took suo muto notice of the issue following media reports.