Amid ripples over dam tree felling, TN releases Kerala’s order citing recommendation; pact

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Chennai, Nov 9 (PTI) While a now on hold order, allowing felling of trees in Mullaperiyar vicinity, has caused political ripples in Kerala, the Tamil Nadu government on Tuesday released a copy of the neighbouring state’s order that said the permission was granted following an official’s recommendation and according to a clause in a pact between the two states.

It has also emerged that while Tamil Nadu sought nod for removal of 23 trees, permission was granted for clearing 15, which was also later frozen. The order indicates that top Kerala authorities were in the loop in respect of the decision to allow TN to cut trees.

The TN government released a copy of the “Proceedings of the Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (Wildlife) and Chief Wildlife Warden, Kerala,” giving an order allowing Tamil Nadu to fell 15 trees.

The proceedings, dated November 5, 2021 refers to TN’s plea to remove 23 trees downstream of Baby Dam and widen the base of existing Baby Dam and earthen bund to strengthen the structure at Mullaperiyar Dam site.

A request was also made for removal of shrubs and bushes in an area of 0.25 Ha (hectare) out of the leased area to TN as part of the Baby Dam strengthening.

Citing such references, the order said the Deputy Director, Periyar Tiger Reserve East Division recommended removal of 15 trees within an approximate area of 40 cents falling within the leased area of Tamil Nadu at the Mullaperiyar Dam site.

“As per Clause 5 of the Principal Deed, the Lessee, Tamil Nadu is permitted to fell the trees, under woods and saplings within the leased areas for the maintenance works.” “The forest produce to be obtained on felling of the trees are neither intended to be used or to be removed outside the Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary by the Dam Authorities.” The order of Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (Wildlife) Bennichan Thomas, permitting the Executive Engineer of Water Resources Department, Cumbum, Tamil Nadu also identifies the species of 15 trees and its specifications in an annexure that are allowed to be removed.

Further, the order said the Deputy Director, Periyar Tiger Reserve, East Division would receive the timber and firewood from the dam authorities (Tamil Nadu) and use the same for formation of brushwood gully plugging / brushwood check dam at suitable nearby locations outside the leased area.

A copy of the order was submitted to Additional Chief Secretary, Water Resources Department and Principal Secretary, Forests and Wildlife Department, Kerala.

Following Bennichan Thomas’s order, Deputy Director (Project Tiger) Periyar East Division, Thekkady, A P Sunil Babu on November 6 intimated the Tamil Nadu official, J Sam Erwin (Executive Engineer, WRD, Periyar Dam Special Division, Cumbum in Theni District) that permission is granted for cutting 15 trees.

On Monday, the Kerala Assembly witnessed noisy scenes over the Left government’s order granting permission to Tamil Nadu for felling 15 trees as the opposition UDF demanded a judicial probe into the issue and staged a walkout.

On November 7, the Kerala government froze the order granting permission to Tamil Nadu for felling 15 trees and decided to take action against officials who had issued it, a day after TN Chief Minister M K Stalin thanked his counterpart Pinarayi Vijayan for allowing removal of trees.

In Tamil Nadu, opposition parties AIADMK and BJP have been targeting the ruling DMK over the Mullaperiyar issue.

The Mullaperiyar dam in Kerala was built across Periyar River following the Periyar lake lease agreement between Travancore and the Secretary of State for India in 1886. The lease period is 999 years.

The dam’s construction took eight years, faced several challenges and was completed in 1895.

The water supply from the dam, which is owned and operated by Tamil Nadu government, serves as the life line of people in southern TN.

In Kerala, the pronunciation used is ‘Mulla Periyar’ and in Tamil Nadu it is ‘Mullai Periyar.’ PTI VGN ROH ROH

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