Five-member panels formed to identify ESAs

Field reports submitted by panchayat-level committees have said that only about 20 per cent area in the nine grama panchayats identified by the Kasturirangan report in the district is ecologically sensitive.

The reports were submitted to the District Collector by five-member committees from each of the nine gramapanchayats – Puthuppadi, Thiruvambadi, Kodenchery, Thamarassery, Chakittappara, Kattipara, Koorachundu, Kavilumpara, and Naripetta — on January 10. They have been forwarded to the State government.

Maps drawn

“The committees led by the respective panchayat presidents conducted field surveys of the areas. A map of each panchayat, clearly demarcating the landscape, has been drawn. The nine grama panchayats here have only about 20 per cent ecologically-sensitive areas (ESAs),” District Collector C.A. Latha said on Tuesday.

The Kasturirangan report had identified 123 villages in Kerala which were ecologically sensitive. A government order issued on December 21, 2013, had ordered the formation of five-member village committees in each of the 123 villages to conduct field surveys and rework the parameters set by the Kasturirangan report for ESAs.

‘Not entire villages’

The government had objected to the Kasturirangan panel’s conclusions, primarily that ESAs did not make up the entire area of the villages. It said the panel did not take into consideration human settlements and agricultural holdings in these gramapanchayats.

The order, in a way, left it to the panchayat committees to demarcate ESAs by conducting direct inquiries to list the number of sacred groves, hillocks, rocky and grass plains, forests, etc. after taking an extensive tour of their respective villages.

“Besides the exact ESA measurements, the panchayat panel reports have detailed the population counts, human settlements, hospitals, schools, industries, dairy farms, and even possibilities of waste disposal,” Ms. Latha said, adding that Kozhikode was the first district to complete the exercise and hand over the data to the government.

Gadgil panel suggestion

Incidentally, the December-21 order to set up village committees is a re-call of the cardinal recommendation made in the widely-criticised and officially discarded Madhav Gadgil-led Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel (WGEEP) report.

The Gadgil report, over which the Kasturirangan panel was set up, had pointed out that local population, especially the grama sabhas, should finally decide the ESAs in their respective regions. Prof. Gadgil, earlier speaking to The Hindu, had criticised the Kasturirangan suggestions and the government’s denial of any role to the local population in the ecology conservation of the Western Ghats. He had said people of the villages should decide the ecologically sensitive zones in their area.

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