Will submit its report within 10 days

The three-member expert committee constituted by the government to take evidence from the public on the K. Kasturirangan panel’s recommendations for protecting the Western Ghats will submit its report within 10 days.

The committee, which has Kerala State Biodiversity Board chairman Oommen V. Oommen as convener and comprises V.N. Rajasekharan Pillai, executive vice-president, Kerala State Council for Science, Technology and Environment, and P.C. Cyriac, former chairman, Rubber Board, completed its hearings, the last one with non-governmental organisations here on Friday.

Mr. Oommen said suggestions, concerns and complaints that were aired by the public during the hearings held at 27 sites from Aralam in Kannur to Amboori in Thiruvananthapuram would be assimilated soon. More than 35,000 people had attended the hearings.

A final report, based on the committee’s findings during the hearings and culled from over 9,000 memoranda submitted by individuals, NGOs, schools, public representatives, farmers’ organisations and so on, would be submitted within 10 days.

Answering a query, Mr. Oommen, who said large-scale, highly mechanised quarrying activities that were a threat to the Western Ghats had come to the committee’s notice during its visits, indicated that the committee might recommend another field survey to ensure accurate demarcation of land since there were complaints that some areas were incorrectly classified as ecologically sensitive areas.

The committee would do this after deciding on whether there was any unscientific classification in the Kasturirangan panel report.

Stating that they would discuss and include their views in the report on whether the Forest (Conservation) Act of 1980 and the Environment Protection Act of 1986, if implemented in their full essence, were adequate for protection of the Western Ghats, Mr. Oommen and Mr. Cyriac also pointed out that there were several multi-storey constructions in sensitive areas such as Munnar in the State, whereas in other States, there were restrictions on such constructions.

The committee would also discuss the classification of environmentally fragile lands (EFL) and include its views in the report, Mr. Pillai said.

Two representatives each of the Kerala Sasthra Sahitya Parishath and the Paristhithi Samrakshana Samithi, three independent agriculturists, and a retired government employee were those who turned up to air their views on the Kasturirangan panel’s recommendations during the hearing on Friday.

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