Kerala: Row over tree felling near Baby UDF stages walkout at Assembly, demands probe

On Monday, November 8, the Kerala Assembly experienced turbulence over the Left government’s contentious order of granting consent to neighbouring Tamil Nadu for felling 15 trees downstream of the Baby Dam at Mullaperiyar reservoir. The opposition United Democratic Front (UDF) staged a walkout over the issue and sought a judicial probe into the matter. 

During the zero hours, Congress Legislator and former Home Minister Thiruvanchoor Radhakrishnan sought notice for an adjournment motion and asked the House to address it after halting other proceedings. Though Speaker MB Rajesh recommended raising the issues as a submission instead of an adjournment motion, the opposition stuck to its stand as they felt it was a ‘serious matter’.

UDF questions on delay in cancellation of order

Apart from a judicial probe, the Congress-led UDF also questioned as to why the CPM(M)-led government was yet to cancel the order, instead of just freezing it. 

Replying to the notice, Kerala Forest Minister AK Saseendran said that the government would never accept the bureaucratic action taken against the interests of the state in this regard. “Safety for Kerala and water for Tamil Nadu is the state government’s proclaimed policy in the Mullaperiyar issue. The state Assembly had passed a unanimous resolution in this regard. There will be no derivation from this stand,” he said.

Examining the circumstances that led to the issuing of the order: Saseendran

Kerala Forest Minister AK Saseendran said that the government was examining the circumstances that led to the issuing of the order permitting the neighbouring state to fell trees from the dam site, infringing the government’s stand.

Based on the reply of the minister, the Speaker rejected leave for the motion, and the opposition expressing their objection staged a walkout in the House.

The issue came into the limelight after Tamil Nadu Chief Minister MK Stalin on Saturday sent a letter to his Kerala counterpart CM Pinarayi Vijayan thanking him for the permission to cut trees near the baby dam in Mullaperiyar reservoir. The letter led to a huge controversy in the state as the Opposition Congress and BJP claimed that the CM’s office gave permission dodging ministries concerned. 

Kerala freezes order on tree felling

The Kerala government subsequently on Sunday froze the order by the Forest Department that granted permission to Tamil Nadu for felling 15 trees downstream of Baby Dam at Mullaperiyar reservoir, and decided to take action against the officials who were involved in granting permission for the same.

The Forest Minister stated that the order was an ‘unusual one’ and that there was a serious lapse on the part of the Principal Chief Conservator of Forest (Wildfire) and Chief Wildlife Warden, who had issued the order. Earlier in the day, Saseendran had said that the order was passed without the knowledge of his office, or that of the Irrigation minister or the Chief Minister’s office.

Tamil Nadu CM Stalin had on Saturday acknowledged CM Vijayan for “granting permission” for felling 15 trees downstream of the Baby Dam at Mullaperiyar reservoir and said he was notified by his officers of the Water Resources Department that the necessary approval was granted by the Forest Department of Kerala.

(With Inputs from PTI)

Image: PTI, Representative

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