Express news service
DINDIGUL: The residents of Kodaikanal have expressed their opposition to the helipad project which will likely be jointly established by central and state governments in the Chinnapallam region. At the start of last month, a team of Union government officials inspected the site, following which people raised a red flag against the project.
In an attempt to boost tourism, the government of Tamil Nadu announced a series of plans to renovate infrastructure at tourist sites. In September this year, Tourism Minister Ms. Mathiventhan said that a destination development program would be put in place to promote tourism of all kinds, including adventure tourism and ecotourism. “The government is planning to launch ramps for helicopter operations in places like Rameswaram, Madurai and Kodaikanal,” he said. However, since Kodaikanal is an environmentally sensitive area notified as a wildlife sanctuary under section 26A1 (b) of the Wildlife Protection Act, residents oppose the project.
Speaking to TNIE, Eco-Friendly Environmental Conservation Trust (EFECT) founder VS Veerapathiran said other hill stations in Tamil Nadu are polluted, which many tourists prefer Kodaikanal. “Its nature is still pristine, although anti-environmental projects are up and running here. After the Covid-19 outbreak and the closures that followed, many endangered flora and fauna species in Kodaikanal have been given a new lease of life. Rare birds like the hornbill are easily spotted now. Operating airplanes here would affect the environment in several ways. It would disrupt the breeding season for animals and birds, “he said.
The Chinnapallam area, which is a prairie, is surrounded on one side by the Palani Hills Wildlife Preserve and National Park and on the other by the Tiger Reserve. “The grassland helps prevent soil erosion. There are also court orders against the implementation of projects in the grasslands,” he said. In addition, an expansion of business activities here has led to many problems, including frequent human-animal conflicts. “Elephants often enter farmland and destroy crops. In a recent incident, a farm worker was trampled to death by an elephant in Kodaikanal. If the helipad project is implemented, the animal shelter will be affected and they might even enter the areas, ”said S Karuppasami, a farmer. A major concern raised by farmers at the recent Collectorate grievance meeting was that neither the forestry department nor the district administration had so far raised the red flag against the project.
Veerapathiran said the petition he sent to the chief minister’s cell in this regard was rejected. “The state government should instead implement a lockdown of at least one month each year to help nature restore itself,” he added.
Responding to residents’ concerns, forestry department officials said the project was only in its initial stages. “The location for the construction of the helipad has not yet been finalized. Union government officials visited Chinnapallam only as part of the preliminary works. We were unable to express our opinion on the project only after receiving official correspondence from the government, ”they said.