Chief Minister Oommen Chandy has conveyed the concerns of Kerala “regarding the notification issued by the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests on November 13 approving the K. Kasturirangan report” in a telephone conversation with the Union Minister for State for Environment and Forests, an official release from the Chief Minister’s office said on Friday.
The release said the Union Minister had told the Chief Minister that it was not a final notification but a draft only, and the States would get opportunity to suggest changes. “The States will get four months’ time. The final notification will be issued only after eliciting the opinions of the States on the Kasturirangan report. With this, recommendations of the Gadgil committee will lapse,” the release quoted the Union Minister as having told Mr. Chandy.
Directions on website
The Ministry’s website, however, displays directives prohibiting new and expansion projects or activities falling in five categories in Ecologically Sensitive Areas of the Western Ghats issued under the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986, with immediate effect. The categories specified in the order are mining, quarrying and sand-mining; thermal power plants; building and construction projects of 20,000 sq m and above; township and area development projects with an area of 50 hectares and above and/or with built-up area of 1,50,000 sq m and above; and red category of industries.
The order specifies that the directions (under the Act) will come into force with immediate effect and remain so till further orders. In case of any violation, appropriate legal action under the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986, shall be taken. The order excludes projects pending environmental clearance before the publication of the report of the high-level working group chaired by K. Kasturirangan.
Meanwhile, the Chief Wildlife Warden of Kerala has clarified that the State Forest Department had no role in the preparation of the Kasturirangan report, and it had not been entrusted with the enforcement of the notification.
The warden said in an official release that violence against forest offices and staff had been reported from different parts of the State following publication of the Ministry’s notification. While the department understood its responsibility to address the concerns of the people on the Kasturirangan report, there was no basis for accusing the department in connection with the report and the notification.