Dear All,
I am sharing a news item from Hindu regarding the Cheruneli Estate near the Nelliyampathy hills in western ghats.

Kerala govt set to take over Cherunelli Estate soon
Viju B, TNN | Apr 19, 2012, 11.20AM IST

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The state forest department is finalizing the process of cancelling the lease deed of around 280 acres of forest land in Cherunelli Estate in Nelliyampathy.

Nelliyampathy hills and forests form an integral part of the Western Ghats and its ecological significance was highlighted by the Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel which submitted its report to the Union ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF) last year. The panel categorized the hill ranges in the highest ecologically sensitive Zone 1 category.

Senior officials with the forest department said the lease was cancelled after it found several violations like illegal division of the leased estate in the names of many owners and even taking loans based on this division of land.

"Section two of Forest Conservation Act, 1980, says the diversion of leased forest land can only be done with prior permission from the Government of India,'' a senior forest official said.

The state government had earlier issued an order cancelling the lease deed without issuing notice to the encroachers. The high court had then directed the state to comply with proper legal procedure. "The names of at least 11 owners in Cherunelli Estate who had submitted identity proof were found fake,'' the official said.

The Congress-led United Democratic Front also formed a sub- committee headed by chief whip P C George to advise the government on the Cherunalli Estate issue. In February this year, UDF chief whip P C Geroge sent a letter to chief minister Oommen Chandy to take up the cause of estate owners as their demand was genuine. TOI had reported on February 25 that several of the signatories to the petition had passed away.

Forest department officials said many estate owners had cut plantation trees, sold the land and even taken huge loans showing that they owned the property without the permission of the forest department. The forest department is now in the process cancelling lease deeds of 27 estates and measuring around 2,500 acres in Neliyampathy hills.

Nelliampathy hill tract is rich in wildlife and is an abode to large number of endangered flora and fauna endemic to Western Ghats. "Some of the tributaries to the Pothundi, Meenkara, Chulliyar, Mangalam and Peechi Dam originate from Nelliyampathy hills. The storage in these reservoirs is badly affected due to the deforestation and indiscriminate felling in this area,'' said V Harish, coordinator of environmental NGO One Earth, One Life said.

The hills are an integral part of a wildlife corridor for tiger, leopard, wild gaur and elephants. "The forest land is located in close proximity to the Parambikulam wildlife Sanctuary sharing boundary with the core zone of the Parambikulam Tiger Reserve,'' Harish said.
Kerala govt set to take over Cherunelli Estate soon - Times Of India