Remote sensing data shows massive diversion of forest land in Munnar

Thousands of hectares of forest land in Munnar, one of the world's greatest biodiversity hotspots, have disappeared, remote sensing data shows

Nidheesh M.K.
Updated27 Apr 2017, 03:38 PM IST
The remote sensing data also shows a massive increase in areas under plantations, agriculture and urban settlements while substantial reduction in open areas in Munnar. Photo: iStockphoto
The remote sensing data also shows a massive increase in areas under plantations, agriculture and urban settlements while substantial reduction in open areas in Munnar. Photo: iStockphoto

Bengaluru: Thousands of hectares of forest land in a region of Kerala that is one of the world’s greatest biodiversity hotspots have disappeared, remote sensing data shows.

Data obtained by two researchers working on a project at the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) shows 7.71%—or 13,638.43 hectares—of forest land in Devikulam revenue taluk in the western ghats just don’t exist anymore.

The data, accessed by Ramkrishnan Ramabhadran, an assistant professor at Coimbatore-based Amrita School of Engineering, and T.V. Ramachandra, head of the Center for Ecological Studies at IISc in Bengaluru, has been reviewed by Mint.

For perspective, the rate of forest depletion for all of Kerala between 1980 and 2016 was 3.6%—the third-highest proportion of forest land diversion among Indian states.

The denuded area discovered by satellites is near the tourist resort of Munnar, a hilly region that plays a crucial role in Kerala’s forest ecology.

Last week, the state government put a pause on eviction drive to clear encroachments in Munnar, which created an uproar.

Spanning about 19,239 sq km, forests form almost half of the state’s total area.

Idukki district, which includes Munnar, tops the state’s districts in forest cover (3,770 sq km) and Devikulam accounts for more than one-third of this. There are three national parks in the area, and three rivers originate here.

The remote sensing data also shows a massive increase in areas under plantations, agriculture and urban settlements while substantial reduction in open areas in Munnar. The data substantiates official reports of rampant encroachment that has facilitated the emergence of Munnar as a top tourist destination—the single biggest reason for the degradation of the region’s biodiversity.

Land use changes at this scale underline the failure of regulatory mechanisms to prevent encroachment, said Harish Vasudevan, lawyer and environmental activist based in Kerala.

Ironically, he said, it should be harder to build anything in Munnar than anywhere else in Kerala.

About 86,000 hectares in Munnar and Cardamom Hill Reserve is forest land, as identified by a special committee constituted of the Supreme Court, which means central and state forest laws apply within this region. Devikulam also has a bespoke land use policy, said Vasudevan.

Besides, construction in the region is supposed to be only allowed for two purposes—agriculture and residential use, which itself requires sanctions all the way up from panchayat to the revenue department. Apart from these, from time to time, authorities impose further curbs like a bar on building more than three storeys.

All of this, however, exists only on paper.

Hundreds of huge construction projects have cropped up in the area, violating all norms. In 2005, an empowered committee appointed by the Supreme Court visited Munnar and discovered hundreds of forged title deeds, made to encroach forest lands. The violators included then parliamentarians, relatives of ministers and political leaders.

Catch all the Politics News and Updates on Live Mint. Download The Mint News App to get Daily Market Updates & Live Business News.MoreLess
First Published:27 Apr 2017, 03:38 PM IST
HomepoliticspolicyRemote sensing data shows massive diversion of forest land in Munnar

Most Active Stocks

Indian Oil Corporation

174.50
03:59 PM | 11 JUL 2024
2.55 (1.48%)

Tata Steel

169.00
03:58 PM | 11 JUL 2024
1 (0.6%)

Bharat Petroleum Corporation

306.60
03:59 PM | 11 JUL 2024
6.25 (2.08%)

Oil & Natural Gas Corporation

304.80
03:57 PM | 11 JUL 2024
6.75 (2.26%)
More Active Stocks

Market Snapshot

  • Top Gainers
  • Top Losers
  • 52 Week High

Gujarat Pipavav Port

236.60
03:58 PM | 11 JUL 2024
16.85 (7.67%)

Oil India

551.45
03:58 PM | 11 JUL 2024
38.7 (7.55%)

Mazagon Dock Shipbuilders

5,739.10
03:55 PM | 11 JUL 2024
383.7 (7.16%)

Great Eastern Shipping Company

1,455.65
03:58 PM | 11 JUL 2024
93.9 (6.9%)
More from Top Gainers

Recommended For You

    More Recommendations

    Gold Prices

    • 24K
    • 22K
    Bangalore
    73,705.000.00
    Chennai
    74,722.000.00
    Delhi
    73,705.000.00
    Kolkata
    74,722.000.00

    Fuel Price

    • Petrol
    • Diesel
    Bangalore
    102.86/L0.00
    Chennai
    100.75/L0.00
    Kolkata
    104.95/L0.00
    New Delhi
    94.72/L0.00
    OPEN IN APP
    HomeMarketsPremiumInstant LoanMint Shorts