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Kerala Kaumudi Online
Friday, 20 May 2022 9.06 PM IST

Mullaperiyar tree felling row: Order issued with govt's knowledge, says CWW Bennichan Thomas

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THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Chief Wildlife Warden (CWW) Bennichan Thomas has said that the controversial order allowing Tamil Nadu to cut down 15 trees near the Baby Dam at Mullaperiyar was in line with the understanding reached at the Kerala-Tamil Nadu inter-state secretaries' meeting on September 17. He made the revelation in response to Chief Secretary Dr VP Joy's show-cause notice.

Benichan Thomas explained with documents that he issued the order with the aim of protecting Kerala's interest in the Mullaperiyar case after discussions at various levels of the state government. The tree felling cannot be done in the name of this order alone and the final approval of the Union Ministry of Forests and Environment is required. The application submitted by Tamil Nadu for this in 2019 is still on the Parivesh portal. On November 5, Benichan Thomas issued an order allowing Tamil Nadu to cut down 15 trees near the Baby Dam. Following the controversy, he was charged and suspended. The suspension was lifted a month later.

For the protection of the Baby Dam

At a meeting held at the office of the Additional Chief Secretary of the Department of Water Resources on September 15, the department's engineers suggested that trees growing just below the Baby Dam would affect safety and that the bottom of the dam should always be dry. The meeting was also attended by the Principal Secretary of Forest and Wildlife Department, Chief Wildlife Warden and, Kottayam Periyar Tiger Reserve Field Director.

The inter-state secretarial meeting was held on September 17 at 3.30 pm in the conference hall of the Secretariat Second Annex. TK Jose, Additional Chief Secretary of Water Resources, presided over the function. Principal Secretary of Forest and Wildlife Department and Chief Wildlife Warden were present. In the minutes of the meeting, a third point was made about Mullaperiyar: "The Principal Secretary of Kerala Forest and Wildlife Department has informed that steps are being taken to give permission to cut down 15 trees found there", reveals Benichan Thomas.

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TAGS: MULLAPERIYAR, TREE FELLING ROW, ORDER, BENNICHAN THOMAS, CWW
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