By P. Oppili
According to the guidelines of the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF), no non-forestry activity should be allowed in a 10-km radius of the ecologically sensitive zone of any sanctuary
After educational institutions and resorts, it is the turn of firecracker manufacturers to set up units on the foothills of forests, posing a threat to locals and wildlife.
The establishment of firecracker manufacturing units closer to the Grizzled Giant Squirrel Sanctuary, Srivilliputhur, has shocked naturalists and environmentalists.
Members of the Wildlife Association of Rajapalayam (WAR) say one of the units has started manufacturing crackers at Vellappottal near Watrap in Virudhunagar district.
“The unit is testing the manufactured crackers once an hour every day,” says a member.
According to the guidelines of the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF), no non-forestry activity should be allowed in a 10-km radius of the ecologically sensitive zone of any sanctuary.
However, the State government is yet to notify the ecologically sensitive zones around sanctuaries and national parks in the State, including the Grizzled Giant Squirrel Sanctuary.
The villagers living around the firecracker unit have started feeling the disturbance. V. Chellakkannu, panchayat president, Govindhanallur, a village near Watrap, says noise pollution poses a threat to the survival of the wildlife at Vellappottal.
And the village bears the brunt of untreated residue from the cracker unit being let into its waterbody. “The tank is the main source of water for both irrigation and drinking purposes, and it is getting contaminated,” Mr. Chellakkannu says. Even before the construction of the cracker unit started, the villagers submitted a petition to the district administration, urging that the unit not be given a licence. “But our plea fell on deaf ears and the unit is functional now,” he rues.
At Aayadharmam, another village in the vicinity, a cracker unit has come up without proper permission, and half the construction work is over, say WAR members. Wildlife authorities must have take a serious view of the mushrooming of cracker units near the sanctuary which has to be stopped immediately, they say.
Sanctuary officials say the proposal to declare the ecologically sensitive zone has been sent to the government for approval.
Till then, the MoEF norm that 10 km around a sanctuary will be deemed the ecologically sensitive zone holds good.
Two units have been set up within 4.5 km of the sanctuary. The district administration has not taken into consideration the Centre’s order on eco sensitive zones, forest officials here said.