Forest department may drop plan for eco-tourism project at Arunamala
The Forest Department has offered to withdraw the plan to set up an eco-tourism project at Arunamala under the Meppady forest range of the South Wayanad forest division owing to the stiff opposition by tribespeople.
The department had proposed to launch a mega tourism project, including trekking to Arunamala and setting up tents for tourists, near the tribal settlement on the eastern slope of the camel hump mountain complex of the Western Ghats where 85 families of Kattunayakkan community, a particularly vulnerable tribal group, live. Many incidences of landslips were also reported on the ecologically fragile area during the monsoon two years ago.
After tourism activities such as setting up private resorts in the area and the arrival of tourists in vehicles became a threat to the tranquil life of the tribespeople, they brought the issue to the attention of Wayanad District Collector A. Geetha with the support of the Wayanad Prakruthi Samrakshna Samiti.
Ms. Geetha directed a team of officials led by D.S. Prabhat, Deputy Director of Tourism, to submit a report on the issue after visiting the site. They visited the site and collected evidence from the tribespeople and submitted the report to the Collector.
Later, the team held a talk with senior officials of the Forest Department and the latter assured them that the department would not launch any tourism project in the area that would hamper the tranquillity of the tribal settlement.
B. Akhil, president of the Arunamala tribal group committee, said the officials had assured them that tourism activities would not be allowed in the area.
The samiti told the authorities that the tourism project was against the norms and conditions of the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF and CC) as it was not included in the working plan of the department. According to the norms, the intervention of outsiders was not permitted in a Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Group settlement.