THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Initiating a damage-control exercise, the state cabinet on Wednesday cancelled the order issued by the chief wildlife warden on November 5 approving Tamil Nadu’s request to cut 15 trees in the 40 cents of land downstream Mullaperiyar for strengthening the baby dam. The forest minister had frozen the order on November 7 after the decision triggered a political storm in the state.
Following the cabinet meeting, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan suspended Chief Wildlife Warden Bennichan Thomas, who is among the senior most IFS officers in the state. The suspension followed the complaint raised by Forest Minister A K Saseendran that he was kept in the dark regarding the move.
Though Bennichan had promptly conveyed the decision to the additional chief secretary (water resources) and principal secretary (forest and wildlife), the disciplinary action was initiated only against him. Sources said the role of the secretaries in finalising the decision was not proved beyond doubt.
At the cabinet meeting, Chief Secretary V P Joy briefed about the legal and technical issues in the order. He said the order would not stand legal scrutiny. The legal advice of the advocate general also favoured cancelling the order. “The order has been issued without obtaining clearances mandated by the Union government,” said a press release issued by the CM’s office.