State’s demand for changes in Kasturirangan report on Western Ghats

With only a few days left for the issuance of a notification for the Lok Sabha elections, all eyes are on the Union Ministry of Environment and Forest for its crucial amendments to some of the recommendations of the K. Kasturirangan committee report on Western Ghats conservation related to 123 villages identified as ecologically sensitive areas (ESAs).

Will the amendments come out ahead of the election notification? Or will Kerala have to wait till the new government is in place? The question means a lot to all political parties in the State since all of them have taken a strong stand against the report.

The Congress party is going to be the main loser since the recommendations will have a serious impact on its core constituencies, mainly Central Travancore and the high ranges.

The State leadership has not exactly succeeded in influencing the UPA. The Church is now on an unusually belligerent path of agitation, playing up on the fears of the local population and its ire directed at the Congress leadership for its failure to prevent the march of ecological conservation recommendations.

The Left Democratic Front has made all efforts to capitalise on the general disaffection against the Congress, by organising a hartal in the high ranges. The CPI(M) has promised in its election manifesto that it will withdraw the report.

The controversial recommendations have also become a bone of contention in the Kerala Congress (M), with factional tussles pushing its leadership into taking an aggressive stand.

Union Minister of Environment and Forests Veerappa Moily has apparently given an assurance that the necessary clarifications will be issued, but it is clear that whatever the Ministry might do, it will be subject to the verdict of the National Green Tribunal. Mr. Moily is understood to have conveyed the Ministry’s views to the State leaders, including Defence Minister A.K. Antony, when he met him the other day to discuss the matter.

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