Chief Minister Oommen Chandy has been touring the districts during the last fortnight to chart our measures to fight drought. At the same time, he ignored large scale felling of trees in Idukki district and the precarious condition of forests in Wayanad. (Mr. Chandy is now holding the Forest portfolio, following the resignation of K. B. Ganesh Kumar). This shows the dichotomy between the government’s campaigns and ground-level enforcement of stated policies.
The felling of trees in Idukki is significant in more ways than one. Forests in Idukki are crucial for availability of water both for Kerala and Tamil Nadu. The longest river of the State Periyar has much of its catchment in Idukki district. Many important power projects including Idukki is located here. Still, Mr. Chandy did virtually nothing to stem the felling of trees in the district while announcing so many other measures to check drought. He is finding solutions without addressing at least one of the known the causes– deforestation.
It is also significant that the felling of trees had taken place against the background of Gadgil committee report. The trees felled were of two types. Forest species in cardamom estates and eucalyptus on encroached forest land. It was feared that if the Centre implements Gadgil recommendations, it might become impossible to cut and remove these trees because of restrictions. Hence, the hurry in cutting and transporting hundreds of lorry-loads of trees from the district.
The biggest protests against the Gadgil panel had originated from Idukki district. Now, it should be clear who were behind these protests. They brought time through the protests and appointment of K. Kasturirangan panel to scrutinise the Gadgil report. Now that the astrophysicist-led panel has given its verdict on Gadgil report, it is high time that the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests stepped in to implement the recommendations.