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Tiding over tremendous initial resistance from the industry as well as from ministry fifth-columnists, the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MEF) has submitted a fresh proposal with the Union cabinet for involving the industry directly in afforestation of degraded forest lands.
But the Kerala government wants the baby killed even before it is born. While the proposal awaits Cabinet approval, the state government is going ahead with its plans of letting the Hindustan Paper Corporation (HPC) and the Sabarmali Temple Authority (STA) use large parcels of degraded forest land from the northern and southern parts of the Periyar Tiger Reserve. The HPC, which is a subsidiary of Delhi-based Hindustan Newsprint Ltd, plans to develop an eucalyptus plantation for its raw material, and the STA will build a tourist complex.
The HPC project involves several hundred hectares of grasslands and forest area. In an appeal to the MEF, Kalpavriksh, a Delhi-based NGO has said that the land being given away falls within the area demarcated for Project Elephant. Kalpavriksh says that the state government's step will obstruct the migratory routes of elephant herds. The tiger population will also take a beating. Tigers need large areas for themselves, and the habitat here will be endangered if the land is diverted from forest to industrial use.