Ooty: With the apex court on Wednesday passing directions to seal illegal tourist resorts in the Segur Valley Elephant Corridor, now located at the recently created Mudumalai Tiger Reserve (MTR) buffer zone area, it has come as a gift towards elephant conservation as the world gears up to observe ‘World Elephant Day’ coming Sunday (August 12).
Elephant G. Rajendran, a Chennai-based environmentalist who is the petitioner in the PIL in this case, speaking to DC, recalled his trip to Vibuthumalai Murugan temple in Bokkapuram along with this correspondent in the summer of 2008, to take a look at some of the alleged illegal structures cropping up there. He was also the petitioner in a PIL related to illegal buildings in the Nilgiris; this turned out be a game-changer and paved the way to file the PIL on restoring the Segur Valley Elephant Corridor.
“Upon seeing the concrete structures and other activities in the elephant pathway amidst the wooded zone from the Vibhuthimalai view point which gives a panoramic view woods in the MTR and adjoining Singara and Segur woods, I made up my mind to file a PIL to restore the corridor in the Segur Valley which has forests, revenue lands and private patta lands,” he noted.
While this is the genesis of the corridor case, the Madras High Court gave its verdict on restoring the elephant corridor at Segur Valley in November 2009 after an expert committee set up by it gave its recommendations and holding of public hearing in three places in Segur and Singara limits. The court also issued directions to remove encroachments and constructions in the corridor. However, those with private lands in the proposed corridor preferred an appeal in the apex court early in 2010.
Mr. Elephant Rajendran said that the apex court instructed the Nilgiris district administration on Wednesday to seal or close down, in the first phase, all unauthorized tourist resorts (commercial buildings) in the corridor, as reported by the Nilgiris collector in the report submitted to the court, in two days. For 12 resorts which claim to have permission, they need to produce the necessary documents to the collector in 24 hours. They collector will take action on them after verifying whether they have proper permission to run a resort there, the PIL litigant claimed.
For other categories of buildings, barring resorts mentioned in Wednesday's order, the court has given two months for the concerned owners to produce the necessary documents to the district collector of Nilgiris for verification and submit a report to the court. “By this year end the whole corridor in the Segur valley will be restored by removing all concrete and other structures there to pave the way for safe passage of elephants,” said Mr. Rajendran, adding, the near decade-long legal battle in this issue has climaxed now.
Meanwhile, S. Jayachandran, who is an impleading petitioner in this case as the former secretary of the Nilgiris Wildlife and Environment Association during 2009-11, congratulated Mr. Elephant Rajendran for his efforts for the welfare of wildlife. He added that that the restoration of the Segur corridor will pave way for thousands of wild elephants that migrate between Wayanad and Nagarhole in neighbouring Kerala and Karnataka and Gudalur limits on the Nilgiris border up to Sathiyamangalam and Bannari jungles in Erode via the Segur Valley corridor where about 6,000 acres, including revenue, forests and private lands, fall under this proposed corridor.