Environment Ministry issues memo to redraw ESA boundary

In what serves as an immediate relief for the UDF government, the Western Ghats Villagers Protection Forum on Wednesday ended its indefinite strike against the implementation of the Kasturirangan report on Western Ghats protection.

The strike, led by the Thamarassery diocese and considered the nucleus of a wave of displeasure against the Kasturirangan committee’s recommendations in the State, came a day after the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests issued an office memorandum on March 4.

Stakeholders at the protest spot outside the District Collectorate here said the issuance of the office memorandum has only increased their resolve to continue their protests in other democratic forms, possibly electorally.

This is when the UDF government is trying to placate the farmer community by portraying the memorandum as a decision taken by the Union Ministry to redraw the boundaries, exempting large parcels of land from the ESA.

Stakeholders say the March 4 memorandum is an eye-wash and adds little value to the December 20 one in which the ministry had “in-principle” agreed to the Kasturirangan report.

No commitment

“What is said in these office memorandums is hardly a commitment to the farming community that their livelihood and lands will be protected. March 4 memorandum merely says it (union ministry) has received the Kerala proposal and will mention it in the draft notification, that’s all,” Abraham Kavilpurayidathil, Chancellor, Diocese of Thamarassery, said.

“Besides, what is ominous is that the memorandum remains silent about the November 13 notification demarcating 123 villages as ESA. Farmers can breathe easy only after the final notification is published,” he added.

V.S Vijayan, member of the Madhav Gadgil Committee on Western Ghats conservation and former chairman of the Kerala State Biodiversity Board, termed the choice words in paragraph 7 as ‘cunning’.

“Expert-driven recommendations on Western Ghats conservation without consulting local people at the outset are completely unconstitutional. The whole process undertaken is wrong,” Professor Madhav Gadgil, chairman, Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel, said.

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