Bypassing Green Truths

Written by: Leneesh K
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Marten part of Wayanad's distinct fauna
Roads are the carriers of development in modern world. But there is a different story in Kerala. Vilangad is a small town resting north-east of Calicut district in Kerala, bordering with districts of Wayanad and Kannur.

There has been a demand for a road, from here to Kunjom in Wayanad district for a few decades. The topography of the region, allowed the proposed road amidst the rich forest lands, which checked the implementation of the road project.

Recently a wing of merchants, religious leaders, local politicians and a section of people has intensified the campaign for the road. They organized a march to the forest to bring the political attention on their demand and to give their bargain a tone of public interest.

The timely action of governments departments, especially police and forest, stopped march from entering the forest .They thus evaded the damages that could have caused by it. 

Kunjom and Vilangad are small towns with a few shops and a small population. Though people have been living in these villages for decades, they were in no need to meet face to face in any of their routine activities.

The supporters of the road say that the new road can boost the business at Nadapuram town in Calicut district and call it parallel to Kuttyadi Mananthavady highway.

The proposed road will move through Panoth area of Perya forest range, under North Wayanad Forest Division. 3000 hectors (ha) of total 3500 ha of Panoth Forest area comes under Kunjom Adivasi Vana Samrakshana Samithi (AVSS) for conservation under Participatory Forest Management (PFM) programme.

Collection of Non-Timber Forest Products provides employment to tribal people in the area.

In addition to this, 1000 ha of the area is preserved as Gene Pool Conservation Area (GPCA). Even minor human presence cannot be allowed to here.

Panoth area is a valley.  This valley acts as a gateway for rain clouds to North Wayanad. 

This gateway traps rain clouds and turn it to heavy showers in 10 panchayaths including drought prone Pulpally and Mullankolly panchayaths of Wayanad district.

Any restructuring to this ecologically sensitive zone can create harmful impacts on the climate and ecological equation of the region.

Being less rooted in the soil, trees in the rain forests can fall down easily, which can make this zone an open place. The wind will then lead the rain clouds easily through this gap leaving lesser rain falls in the area.

Panoth area is rich in fauna along with luxuriant growth of flora including trees like Malampunna, Churuli, Irrumbakam, Cheeni, Vellapine and hundreds of others.  

37 of the total 97 mammals in Kerala forest can be seen here. Many of then cannot be found in places other than Western Ghats. The area is also the abode of Nilgiri Marten, an endemic species.

Basically a tree climber, belonging to the family of otter; Marten is called as Thenkollan among local people. Studies of wild life Trust of India (WLTI) says that there is a possibility to find Malabar Civet here, considered as an extinct species.

Malabar Civet was found last in 1992 in the forests of Malappuram district in Kerala. Researchers could also found Lion Tailed Macaques here. Out of the 483 species of birds,136 species also can be seen in various parts of Panoth forests.

Another interesting find in the recent years was the nesting of Silon Frog Moth, which is also rare in Kerala. 11 species of snakes including rare snake species like Yellow Striped Shield Tail also inhabits here.

Richness of the butterflies is the symbol of the fertility and diversity of a forest.

Panoth area is rich with 109 of the 313 species of butterflies in Kerala. The zone is also rich in the diversity of reptiles, amphibians and other small beings. But studies are insufficient to bring details about it.

The road will adversely affect the elephant corridors in the area and the free north-south travel of elephants.

It will intensify man animal conflict in the region. Forest will fail to do its duties, if it thus fragmented into patches.

Panoth forest area is one of the catchment areas of rivers such as Maiazhi Puzha, Anjarakandipuzha.

Kutttiyadipuzha and Kabanmi. The proposed road is of 7 km long with seven hair pin curves, which crosses 15 streams.

The blasting of granite and felling of trees that will follow the constructions of road will poison the quality of the water in the rivers born from here.

And,one day the free flow of crystal clean water in these rivers will be turned to muddy and dirty due to soil erosion. The blasting works in connection with road construction is sure to accelerate it. 

Kerala Vyapari Vyavasai Ekopana Samitry, the apex body of the merchants association came up with a claim that they are willing to bear 25% of the total expense of the road.

The real estate mafia and tourism lobby extended their support to the demand. Road can fetch better price to real estate mafia and better earning to tourism promoters.

Therefore it is not the public interest which pressurizes the demand, but business as well as commercial.

It will also enhance the exploitation of remaining forest and smuggling of rare plants, insets and butterflies.

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