NILGIRIS: Officials of the Nilgiris forest division on Saturday clarified that no plans are on to undertake construction works in the Longwood Shola forest in Kotagiri and destroy the drinking water sources of the locals, and rejected the social media messages saying so.
The Longwood Shola Forest, also known as Dodda Shola, is an integral part of the fragile Nilgiri ecosystem. It is the only major pocket of natural shola left in the vicinity of the Kotagiri town and it supports a rich diversity of flora and fauna including endemic ones. Recently, considering its importance, the government has decided to set up a Shola Conservation Centre in Longwood Shola RF, involving the local community in its conservation efforts.
“The intention of the department is to establish a conservation centre to spread awareness on the need for protecting shola. The project was carefully planned in the existing vacant site in the Longwood shola. However, no construction activities have been initiated in this regard as the project is still in the formulation stage. A stakeholder meeting was initiated by the department to make the project democratic and to incorporate their views. The news appeared in social media as if the government’s intention to take up destructive constructions in the shola forest is baseless and is totally against the purpose of the project. A Shola conservation centre is the need of the hour and it will be undertaken in Nilgiris and the place for the centre will be explored by accommodating the views of the stakeholders,” said S Gowtham Nilgiris DFO
The Forest Department called the third stakeholders meeting on November 21, to seek their views on establishing the conservation centre in which the members have opposed the construction activities. During the meeting, some stakeholders misunderstood the construction beds set up for a nursery for new construction taken up in Longwood Shola forest, said forest officials.
Meanwhile, K J Raju, Coordinator of the Longwood Shola WatchDog Committee (LWSWDC) urged the forest department officials should allow the students to see the Longwood shola forest free of cost in the future. “Eco-tourism can be promoted without damaging the existing forest as everyone has the right to see the forest and the Nilgiris forest division officials can renovate the existing buildings and convert them as toilets for the arriving tourists,” he said