Save Kurinji campaigners stage walkathon at Kodaikanal
walkathonKodaikanal, June 2, 2018:  Save Kurinji Campaign Council, Thiruvananthapuram; Palani Hills Conservation Council, Kodaikanal; Malabar Natural History Society, Kozhikode and Munnar Environment and Wildlife Society, Munnar kick-started another phase of their campaign for protection of shola forests by staging a walkathon around the Kodai Lake on June 1.

This was followed by discussions among activists and a trip to Kavungi and nearby areas on June 2.  These areas form part of a belt between Kodaikanal and Munnar where kurinji plants (Strobilanthus kunthiana) had been displaced by pine, eucalyptus and wattle plantations. The first Save Kurinji March on foot from Kodaikanal to Munnar in 1989 had taken this route.

The campaigners demand further steps for constitution of the proposed Palani Hill Wildlife Sanctuary and National Park. This Park will be contiguous to the Eravikulam National Park and Kurinjimala Sanctuary.

Combined Steps should be taken by Tamil Nadu and Kerala governments, it said, for protection of the shola forests. The scope for declaration of the sanctuaries and surrounding areas including Munnar and tea gardens as a Biosphere Reserve should be examined.

Encroachers in Kurinjimala Sanctuary should be evicted and the settlement of the sanctuary areas should be completed by excluding land of title holders from the Sanctuary.

Kerala Government should undertake a study on the desirability of plan to cut the eucalyptus standing in the sanctuary area for conservation purposes. If at all the trees are to be cut, this should be done only in May next year after the seeds of kurinji plants flowering this year have fallen. Priority should be given for removal of wattle planted by the Forest Department.

A large tourist zone should be developed in the Kurinjimala sanctuary in view of rush of tourists to flowering areas. The feasibility of collecting kurinji seeds and sowing them in areas cleared of plantations should be considered. It should be examined whether this could done every year for 12 years after storing the seeds properly, so that there would be flowering areas every year in the Sanctuary.  There should be an interpretation centre and museum focussing on shola forests. The development of a botanical garden of shola species should also be taken up.

The campaigners called for effective steps for crowd management during the coming flowering season.  Visitors should not be allowed to pluck the blossoms.

“We urge both Tamil Nadu and Kerala governments to take steps to create awareness among the general public about the importance of shola forests and its flora and take steps for conservation of the kurinji flower and the sholas for the next generation,” Mr. Raj Kumar of Save Kurinji Campaign Council said.

G. Bala, secretary of the Palani Hills Conservation Council, said the Council’s motto is that the ‘health of the hills is the wealth of the plains’. “We strongly insist people to ‘think globally and act locally’.

John Peruvanthanam, Coordination Committee of Environmental Organisations, Idukki; P. R. Sreekumar, Greens, Kerala Secretariat; Roy Mathew, Mariyakutty Mathew Foundation, Thiruvananthapuram; Clarence Maloney, Teacher (Environment), Kodaikanal International School; Janani Krishnamoorthy, Member, Animal Welfare Committee, Kodaikanal; R. Mohan, Munnar Environment and Wildlife Society; A. Abbas, Organiser, SMILE Association, Kodaikanal and Tamil Nadu Forest Ranger S. Anand Kumar also spoke.

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