A woman's conservation efforts to save a 200-year-old mini forest has seen several hurdles since she ratcheted up her protest in April. Now, the future of Santhivanam, the sacred groves, may hinge on a decision from the Kerala Chief Minister.
Meena Menon, along with her supporters, have been working to stop the construction of a 110 KV line by the Kerala State Electricity Board through Santhivanam. The group met with Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Tuesday to discuss the issue.
The habitat, filled with a vast variety of unique fauna and flora, is located at Vazhikkulangara in north Paravur in Ernakulam. Meena inherited the green space from her father.
On Thursday, a division bench of the Kerala High Court refused to stay an order issued by a single bench, which had declined to approve a petition to stop the construction of the electricity line.
The petition filed by Meena had sought to stay the single bench's order. They had initially asked to stop the construction work through Santhivanam and realign the project instead.
The division bench has also postponed the petition's hearing and is awaiting the Chief Minister's stand on the issue.
“Even in the single bench's order, our petition was not dismissed but instead it directed to continue further discussion within the proper channels. This implied that I can take up the issues with authorities. The Chief Minister had told us that he was convinced of the issues and it will be discussed with his cabinet colleagues. We are optimistic that the Chief Minister will support us. It all depends on his stand,” Meena tells TNM.
Meena, 48, has spent the last six years fighting against the construction project that would prove harmful to the mini forest's biodiversity. Her protest intensified this year after the KSEB began its construction on April 6.
Though initial plans suggested that the electricity line would not impact Santhivanam, there was a change in the alignment later that made the line pass through the sacred grove.
“They have already cut three tress. But at least 10 trees have been damaged in the process. They have also installed a tower here. We are now demanding that they remove the tower from Santhivanam. The KSEB has other options, such as passing the line underground. If the tower were to remain, it would affect the flora and fauna here. If the government's decision isn't favourable, we may be forced to take legal action,” Meena says.