‘ Proposal on compensatory afforestation will not be permitted’

Giving a clear indication that stringent action will be taken against encroachments and illegal removal of green cover across the State, Forest Minister K. B. Ganesh Kumar has shot down the Kerala Cricket Association’s (KCA) move to revive its international cricket stadium project at Edakochi.

(The Hindu had reported last month that KCA was planning to conduct an Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) as part of reviving the project at the nearly 23 acre site at Pampayimoola near Edakochi.)

Stating that the government and the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) had earlier rejected the project citing various violations, Mr. Ganesh Kumar said that the government has no plans to re-open the issue. “We are not interested in creating a fresh controversy. There is no change in the government stance against setting up the stadium at the site identified in Edakochi,” he said.

Recalling that the government had already told KCA representatives that they can find a new land for the project, the Minister made it categorically clear that the Edakochi stadium project could not be revived by permitting an afforestation programme to compensate the loss of mangroves in the region.

KCA secretary T. C. Mathew had told The Hindu last month that the association was ready to implement a compensatory afforestation programme, if recommended by the authorities concerned, as part of reviving the project.

The Minister said that compensatory afforestation will not be applicable to the Edakochi stadium project. Compensatory afforestation is allowed for converting a forest land for other purposes after getting the nod from the Supreme Court and the MoEF. The government had earlier received the sanction to convert the forest land at Nilakkal into a car parking area for Sabarimala pilgrims by carrying out a compensatory afforestation programme in revenue land at Munnar, he said.

The Forest Minister’s decision has almost sealed KCA’s revival plans. The association was considering either IIT-Madras or Annamalai University to carry out the EIA. It was also planning to submit a fresh proposal before the government based on the EIA report prepared by the experts.

Experts at the Kerala State Coastal Zone Management Authority pointed out that efforts to revive the project will face several hurdles especially after the MoEF’s observation that the region is part of Vembanad Lake, a Ramsar site.

The site remains a wetland included under the National wetland conservation and management programme. Land reclamation, building bunds, disturbing the natural course of sea water, destruction of mangroves and construction-developmental activities are prohibited in the area, they said.

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