The Cabinet on Wednesday decided to limit the extent of land that can be used by plantations for tourism purposes.
The State, by way of an amendment to the Land Reforms Act, had earlier allowed 5 per cent of land in recognised plantations to be used for cultivating non-plantation crops and tourism. (The Bill passed by the previous United Democratic Front government in 2005 received President’s assent recently).
The Cabinet decision specified that 90 per cent of the five per cent land being diverted should be used for mixed farming, dairying, cultivation of vegetables, fruits, ornamental flowers, and medicinal plants, diversification of agriculture products, and setting up ancillary facilities. Organic farming should be adopted for cultivation.
It specified that only the remaining ten per cent of the area should be used for farm tourism subject to an upper limit of 10 acres. The land thus converted would not be transferable. The permission to divert 5 per cent of land would be a one-time allowance. Further diversions would not be permitted even in the event of partition (among heirs) or sale of parts of the estate.
Briefing the media, Chief Minister Oommen Chandy said the suggestion to allow farm tourism in plantations had come from trade unions when he was the Chief Minister in 2005. None had opposed the law at that time.
The Left Democratic Front government that came to power subsequently could have withdrawn the law if it wanted. Instead, it formed a committee of trade union representatives and it favoured farm tourism. And the unions demanded implementation of the committee’s recommendations.
The Chief Minister said the construction of tourism facilities on estates would have to be conducted in an environment-friendly manner. Bungalows and heritage buildings could be renovated and used for tourism. The landscape should not be altered. Buildings could have up to two-storeys including the basement floor. A part of the income from farm tourism should be contributed by the estate to a biodiversity fund. The income should also be used for projects aimed at fulfilling their social responsibility to care for tribes. Employment of local labour should be preferred.
Mr. Chandy said that fishermen affected by sea erosion at Ambalappuzha, Arattupuzha, Purakkad, and Ponnani would be given free ration for two weeks. Sea walls would be constructed on two reaches at Valiyazeekal in Arattupuzha panchayat at a cost of Rs.2.2 crore and Rs.80 lakh respectively. Sea wall would be constructed at Purakkad also. A sum of Rs.3.5 crore had been sanctioned for this purpose.
He said the Chief Secretary had submitted his report on the discussions he had held with oil companies and Railways regarding transport of gas and related matters against the background of the gas tanker accident that claimed 19 lives at Chala. It had also received a report obtained by Transport Minister Aryadan Mohammed from transport officials. The Cabinet would take a decision on their proposals on September 11.