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Dear Member, Standing Committee of the National Board for Wildlife –
I write to you as a concerned citizen.
The Government of Tamil Nadu had sought the concurrence of the Government of India for its proposal to “reduce the boundary of Vedanthangal Bird Sanctuary from 5 kms. . .to 3 km in which first 1 km to be notified as Core Zone including main lake/tank and next 2 km boundary to be notified as buffer zone and to denotify the outer 2 km zone of the existing 5km.
After much public campaigning against its move, it has now changed its proposal and seeks to demarcate 1km from the lake as core, 2km as buffer and 2 km as ESZ.
The entire area – 29.51 ha plus 5 km around the tank -- is an integral part of the Wild Life Sanctuary. For sanctuaries, there is no “core” and “buffer.” But if one were to refer to a “core” that would mean the entire spread of the sanctuary.
The area within the sanctuary – i.e tank plus 5 km surrounding the tank – includes portions of the Valluvapakkam Reserved Forest characterised by dense scrub and the Koliyalam R.F. The Vedanthangal tank derives its life from the larger wetland complex that it is part of, with the Cheyyar River to the north, the Uthiramerur tank to the west and the sprawling Madurantakam tank to its east. The sanctuary limits include within it several tanks, smaller ponds and canals, agricultural fields and scrub that together provide a variety of habitats that give this landscape the special qualities required to satisfy the scientific criteria of a sanctuary.
The integrity of the catchment and drainage of the Vedanthangal tank and the suitability of the surrounding area is dependent on the vegetation cover and land-use pattern in the region. The present proposal to change the status of the peripheral area of the existing sanctuary (the “core”) will lead to change in the land use and practices in the said area. This is contrary to the scientific and objective criteria for management of the sanctuary/wetland complex and will harm not only the birdlife and bird habitat, but also overall hydrology in the region, which the local communities are dependent on. It will pave the way for commercialisation and industrialisation in the region which is at odds with the conservation objectives for the sanctuary.
It is a shocking fact that a number of industries, including Sun Pharmaceuticals, Ordain Healthcare, Amco Batteries etc, are located within the core area of the Vedanthangal WLS.
On June 9th 2020, a team did a field visit to inspect the core zone of the sanctuary. During their inspection and interaction with villagers, it was found and confirmed that the ground and surface water of the villages have been severely polluted by toxic industrial discharges from them – resulting in very serious health issues, crop failure and dire lack of drinking water.
The Tamil Nadu State Board for Wild Life has also shown undue haste and ignored due process while recommending denotification. The decision was reportedly taken by circulation and not in a proper board meeting.
The Wetland Action Plan 2013-2018 for Vedanthangal WLS prescribes a number of measures to reduce the conflict between the Forest Department and the surrounding communities. However, these measures were not implemented by the Forest Department.
We sincerely request you to reject the proposal which dilutes the sanctuary’s protection under law.
A well-managed sanctuary will be a boon not merely for the wildlife but also to local communities who will enjoy the benefits of improved water availability, water and agricultural security, healthy living environment and the economic benefits of tourism.
The region has a history of bird conservation by local people. If the government is really keen to help local people, it should strive to give local communities an active, decision-making role in the management of the Protected Area. The government should build support for the long term water, biodiversity and livelihood conservation centred around this unique landscape rather than encourage a few profit seeking industries to wipe it out of existence. The government’s move to shrink the sanctuary is against the principles of ecological protection and local development.
I wish to reiterate that the NBWL should:
a) Reject the proposal of the State Forest Department of Tamil Nadu, to declare 1km as core zone, 2km as buffer and 2 km as ESZ, and direct status quo of 5km core zone of the sanctuary.
b) Request the concerned authorities to ensure that no activities – such as operation of polluting industries – are permitted inside the WLS, and initiate enquiries to identify violators and hold errant officials and offending parties accountable.
c) Recommend to the Tamil Nadu Forest Department to implement the Wetland Action Plan.