The government has initiated the process of designating 364.39 hectares of land in Chinnakanal, Idukki district, as a reserve forest (protected forest area). The proposed Chinnakanal Reserve will cover Papathichola and Suryananelli in Udumbanchola taluk. In September, the Forest Department issued a gazette notification on this matter, with the final notification expected at a later date.
According to the Forest Department, the area, which includes the catchment zone of the Anayirankal reservoir, serves as a habitat for elephants and various other wildlife. The department aims to designate it as a reserve forest to safeguard the rich biodiversity of the region. The notification points out that certain private individuals have already earmarked this area for the declaration of a reserve forest.
However, farmers’ organizations allege that the Forest Department has kept the intention to designate the area as a reserve forest confidential, fueling suspicions. The proposed declaration raises concerns among farmers who depend on the area’s water for agriculture and use it as a pathway. The conversion into a reserve forest would lead to the imposition of strict restrictions under forest conservation laws.
In April 2017, the Revenue Department’s demolition of a cross, shed, and building near Papathichola, constructed after encroaching on government land, sparked a significant controversy. Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan distanced himself from the Revenue Department’s actions.
Expressing dissent, MLA M M Mani asserted that if there are attempts to classify areas where people have resided for generations as reserve forests, opposition is inevitable. He emphasized that Idukki is a district of migrants, and any government enforcing laws that negatively impact the residents will not have his support.