Centre notifies 0-1 km area around boundary of Kerala's Mathikettan Shola Park as Eco-sensitive Zone

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Kochi, Dec 31 (PTI) The Centre has notified an area to an extent varying from zero to one km around the boundary of Mathikettan Shola National Park in Kerala's Idukki district as an Eco-sensitive Zone considering the unique nature of the Shola forest and its importance as an elephant strip.

'The Eco-sensitive Zone shall be to an extent of 0 (zero) to 1.00 kilometres around the boundary of Mathikettan Shola National Park and the area of the Eco-sensitive Zone is 17.5 square kilometres,' the notification said.

Issuing the notification, the Union Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change said it is necessary to conserve and protect the area from ecological, environmental and biodiversity point of view and to prohibit industries or class of industries and their operations and processes in the Eco-sensitive Zone.

'Therefore, in exercise of the powers..the Central Government hereby notifies an area to an extent varying from 0 (zero) to 1.00 kilometres around the boundary of Mathikettan Shola National Park, in Idukki District in the State of Kerala as the Eco-sensitive Zone,' the notification read.

It said all new and existing mining (minor and major minerals), stone quarrying and crushing units shall be prohibited with immediate effect except for meeting the domestic needs of bona fide local residents including digging of earth for construction or repair of houses within the Eco- sensitive Zone.

Throught the notification, the Centre banned new industries and expansion of existing polluting industries in the Zone.

However, non-polluting industries are allowed within the Eco-sensitive Zone as per classification of Industries in the guidelines issued by the Central Pollution Control Board in February, 2016.

It further said no new commercial hotels and resorts shall be permitted within one km of the boundary of the protected area or upto the extent of the Eco-sensitive Zone, whichever is nearer, except for small temporary structures for eco-tourism activities.

It also banned new commercial construction of any kind citing the same condition.

The Ministry had published draft notification on August 13 this year inviting objections and suggestions from all persons likely to be affected by the declaration of Eco-Sensitive Zone.

The National Park is situated in the high ranges of southern Western Ghats and formed together with the part of the forest areas of Cardamom Hill Reserve.

Considering the unique features of the Shola forest in Mathikettan and its importance as an Elephant corridor, the Kerala government in 2003 notified the Mathikettan Shola as Mathikettan Shola National Park.

The park is an abode of several endemic flora and fauna, and the habitat is the last remnant of the original forests of the Cardamom Hill Reserve and provides perennial supply of water from Uchinikuthipuzha, Mathikettan Puzha and Njandar, the tributaries of Panniyar, for meeting the agricultural and drinking water requirements of Santhanpara and Pooppara areas of Idukki district.

The park is also home to a variety of mammalian species such as Indian giant squirrel, Nilgiri langur, lion-tailed macaque, common palm civet, Asiatic wild dog, leopard, sambar, gaur and Asian elephant.

The undulating terrain that sometimes climbs up to large hillocks of varying heights, Mathikettan Shola houses evergreen forests, moist deciduous forests, shola grasslands and semi-evergreens.

The National Park is a biodiversity hotspot with its rich treasure of medicinal herbs as well. PTI TGB BN WELCOME BN WELCOME