Monday, Dec 16, 2002
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By K. Raju
Of the total 80,686 ha, about 40,077 ha was degraded forest area.
A total of 29,281 ha falls under dense forest areas, of which only 2,243 ha was tree bearing. About 22,000 out of total 43,000 ha in the Gandamanur forest range under the Madurai Forest Division had been encroached for the past four decades.
Large areas of Ulloothu Kavu, Anjaraipuli, Elamalaipoodu, Arasaradi, Bommarasapuram and neighbouring villages were also under encroachment.
As much as 30 per cent of land has been encroached in the Bodi forest range.
Those who migrated from the plains in Cumbum and Usilampatti during famine in 1960s and settled in the hills for survival have been cultivating silk cotton, lemon, butter beans and mangoes on a large scale.
With an increase in population and their demands, vast stretches of land were either degraded or converted into unicrop areas, causing damage to the environment.
The people settled in the hill tracts were solely dependent on the forests for livelihood.
The Forest Department has planned to convert a major portion of Western Ghats into a sanctuary connecting parts of Palani hills, Kodai hills and Megamalai hills with forest areas in Srivilliputhur forest range.
Forest Department sources said notification on removal of encroachment had been prepared, but was kept in abeyance for political reasons.
Conservation of natural forest in any form would help preserve genetic diversity.
If forest cover was not protected, the district would face a severe crisis, according to forest officials.
So far, encroachment on 300 acres had been removed following a court direction.
The Theni Forest office informed this paper that they would issue notices to encroachers soon.
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