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Mrudul Godbole
18-10-2011, 10:13 PM
New initiatives on the anvil at Top Slip

Restricted entry of private vehicles under consideration
The officials of the Anamalai Tiger Reserve (ATR) are mulling over a number of proposals on new initiatives to be introduced at Top Slip.

Talking to reporters, the Chief Conservator of Forests and Field Director of Anamalai Tiger Reserve P. Varatharaj and Deputy Director and District Forest Officer A. Thiagaraj said the department was planning to restrict the entry of vehicles into Top Slip.

Reception

The proposal is to allow only the vehicles of people who have reserved for night stay. The vehicles of day visitors will be stopped at the Sethumadai checkpost by opening a reception there.

ATR on a nominal fare will operate safari vehicles for the benefit of day visitors from Sethumadai to Top Slip and for other pockets beyond Top Slip reception. This is expected to bring down the air and noise pollution caused by vehicles especially on holidays and weekends. The same is being practiced by the Kerala forest officials with regard to the neighbouring Parambikulam Tiger Reserve, Mr. Varatharaj said.

After a long drawn struggle, the Forest Department has taken possession of five buildings belonging to the Public Works Department, which were constructed earlier for executing the Parambikulam Aliyar Project (PAP).

Accommodation

The five suites will be renovated and will add to the number of accommodations available at Top Slip. At present there are 24 suites available in Forest Rest House, Wood House, Cheetal, Ambuli Illam, Bison, Horn Bill, Bamboo Hut, Tree Top, Pillar Top and Mount Stuart. In addition 36 beds are available in two dormitories.

However, Top Slip faces shortage of accommodation during weekends and holiday season and this could be easily overcome by the five buildings that are being taken over from PWD.

The department is also considering a proposal to revive trekking in Manomboly where the Forest Department has four to five accommodations. Similarly, efforts are also on to revive the Chinna Kallar trekking path in Valparai area.

Fund

Mr.Varatharaj also said that a sum of Rs 2.10 crore has been sanctioned for stepping up the Tiger Reserve works and it would be spent towards development and maintenance of facilities, stepping up anti-poaching works, clearance of exotic weeds and for compensation to victims of man-animal conflict, damage to property. Elephant Proof Trenches (EPT) will be dug up for three km stretch in conflict prone pocket.

ATR at present has 20 camp elephants of which 13 are male and seven are female. The seven female elephants are Kalpana, Sharadha, Valli, Selvi, Durga, Vijayalakshmi and Sivakami and most of them are aged. To meet the growing needs for tamed/trained kumkis and to strengthen the elephant camp, a ten-year-old female elephant Abhinaya will be brought from the Aringar Anna Zoological Park, Vandalur near Chennai. This will help in ensuring biological ventilation for male elephants and also in increasing the number of camp elephants.

Tree planting

To mark the Chief Minister's birthday, the ATR officials are gearing up to plant one lakh saplings each in Pollachi, Tirupur and Coimbatore division.

The entire exercise will be done from February 24, 2012 to March 1. While planting will be done by Forest Department, it was on the look out for sponsors for tree guards to ensure the survival rate and watering of these saplings, officials said.

Sabyasachi Patra
19-10-2011, 04:21 PM
Elephant proof trenches are not the solution. It stops elephants from entering into the fields for sometime, but not for ever. Over a period of time, then trenches get filled. These are difficult and costly to maintain. Also, it is not a solution as you are not attacking the root cause.

One needs to increase the quality of habitat which includes reduction/removal of exotic weeds, increasing/restoring plant diversity, fruit bearing trees etc. That will help in their nutrition levels. Elephants engage in crop raiding because of shortage of food and also because the cultivation of crops which the elephants find nutritious and love. A huge animal like an elephant needs lot of lot of forage. The elephant corridors are mostly blocked, so the elephants have to take a diversion and come in contact with humans.

I strongly detest the use of tree guards. If you are planting trees in the road dividers and other such places, then you are not creating forests. The tree guards are used as advertising boards. Apart from being costly, from a donor perspective I can say that it breeds corruption. Also, creating a tree guard out of some metal is not good for the environment.

It is better to identify degraded forest and revenue lands and plant indigenous trees. Not in rows of the same trees - as mono-culture doesn't help. Forest department often plants avenue trees like Gulmohur etc. As a kid, I remember reading in the Statesman the famous naturalist M. Krishnan lashing out against Gulmohur trees. In Oriya we call in Krushnachuda. Those have nice colourful flowers. However, it is not a native of India.

Cheers,
Sabyasachi