New Delhi: The Centre is willing to give additional forest land for development of the famous Sabarimala temple in Kerala provided the state government gives the barren land elsewhere for afforestation.
At a meeting with Union Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar, Kerala Minister for Temples VS Shivakumar sought more land for development to provide better amenities for crores of pilgrims visiting the hill shrine dedicated to Lord Ayyappa every year.
Kerala government also sought declaration of Sabarimala temple as a 'national pilgrim centre' and allocation of Rs 100 crore in the upcoming union budget.
"We have asked for allottment of 100 hectare of forest land from buffer zone of Periyar Tiger Sanctuary for development of the temple in the first phase. And the Union Minister said the forest land will be given only if the state government allots land for afforestation," Shivakumar told PTI.
The Centre had in 2004 allocated 12.67 hectare of forest land based on the recommendation of a parliamentary panel which suggested delinking of 500 hectares around Sabarimala from the tiger sanctuary for development of the temple, he said.
"It is estimated that about 3-4 crore pilgrims visit Sabarimala every year. Being a temple situated in the buffer zone of Priyar Tiger Sanctuary, there was considerable limitation for the availability of land and hence development activities could not be taken up as expected," the state government said in a representation submitted to the Environment Ministry.
The temple owned only 25 hectare of land in Sabarimala-Pamba area. It is administered by the Travancore Devaswom Board, an autonomous body of the state government.