The government has embarked on the process of designating 364.39 hectares of land in Chinnakanal, Idukki district, as a reserve forest (protected forest area). This proposed Chinnakanal Reserve will encompass Papathichola and Suryananelli in Udumbanchola taluk. In September, the Forest Department released a gazette notification on this matter, and the final notification is anticipated at a later date.
The Forest Department contends that the area, encompassing the catchment zone of the Anayirankal reservoir, functions as a habitat for elephants and various other wildlife. The initiative to designate it as a reserve forest is geared towards protecting the rich biodiversity of the forest, as stated by the department. The notification highlights that certain private individuals have designated this area for the declaration of a reserve forest.
Meanwhile, farmers’ organizations claim that the Forest Department has kept the intention to designate the area as a reserve forest under wraps, leading to suspicions. The proposed declaration raises concerns for farmers who rely on the area’s water for agriculture, as well as those who use it as a pathway. The transformation into a reserve forest would result in the imposition of stringent restrictions under forest conservation laws.
In April 2017, the Revenue Department’s demolition of a cross, shed, and building near Papathichola, constructed after encroaching on government land, triggered a significant controversy. Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan disassociated himself from the Revenue Department’s actions.
Expressing dissent, MLA M M Mani stated, “If there are attempts to categorize areas where people have resided for generations as reserve forests, opposition is inevitable. Idukki is a district of migrants, and any government enforcing laws that negatively impact the residents will not have my support.”