Protect Last Remaining Shola-Grasslands and Fragile Nilgiris from Illegal Construction

Protect Last Remaining Shola-Grasslands and Fragile Nilgiris from Illegal Construction

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Concerned Citizens and Environmentalists of Nilgiris started this petition to Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu and

The Nilgiris are ancient mountains dating back 2.7 billion years. Unfortunately, this landscape has been systematically destroyed over the last 2 centuries (last few decades especially). The 3500 species of plants and thousands of animals native to this region are hanging onto last remaining fragments of wilderness, which are further battered by climate change, uncontrolled tourism, and several invasive species.

The Nilgiri plateau is home to the endangered and unique shola-grassland ecology. A vegetation type that has some of the highest degree of endemic species in southern India, and is responsible for providing livelihood and water to millions of people downstream. These montane ecosystems are highly specialized and take decades (if not centuries) to grow back to how they were. Less than 10 percent of this eco-type remains in a protected state.

For decades now, there has been rampant breaching of building rules all across the plateau. Humongous holiday homes and resorts, heavily concertized and paved gated communities are mushrooming at a frightening pace. On the other hand, for local small landholders, farmers, and indigenous peoples, there are walls of stringent laws that make construction of even one house difficult. In the name of `Real Estate Development’ and `Tourism’, even the last remaining patches of old-growth forests and grasslands are being destroyed for largely unregulated construction activities.

Extreme weather events are increasing in frequency, and the Nilgiris has been subject to severe flooding and landslides in consecutive years. The incidence and threat of large and disastrous land-slides cannot be ignored.

In a recent incident, an individual has cleared out old, rare shola forests to cut out a road to a site that occurs on prime shola-grasslands (1 km off the highly protected Mukurthi National Park). In another incident, a real estate company has been advertising building of villas in a 200 acre forest and has started selling plots of quarter acre each. There is an incredible premium on spaces that look over the edge of the mountain – for the view, and this is where forests still remain now. 

To safeguard these last remaining tracts...and to stall the construction activity in these areas the following are needed with immediate effect:

  • A new stringent law that bans the expansion of small roads and forest paths in forested areas and eco-sensitive zones: This law can not only save thousands of trees and plants from being killed but also save thousands of acres of last remaining wilderness from losing their green cover and being concretized.
  • Appropriate new road, repair and expansion (without felling trees) in forested zones must be sanctioned only for the indigenous people’s hamlets (lands that cannot be sold to third parties).
  • Existing laws that ban building on steep slopes need to be enforced, and strengthened. New analysis needs to be made based on the increased incidence of extreme weather events. Assessments, laws and public hearing need to be more transparent to the public and local stakeholders.
  • Laws that ban construction abutting Reserve Forests (within 250 meters) needs to be enforced, and extended to spaces such as last remaining grasslands, wetlands and streams.
  • There must be investigation into the hundreds of acres that have been converted each year in the last decade or two, checking whether the buildings adhere to all the hill area building rules.
0 have signed. Let’s get to 15,000!
At 15,000 signatures, this petition becomes one of the top signed on Change.org!