Await fresh orders, State tells officials

The State government has withdrawn the order it had issued on Wednesday asking officials at the local level not to refuse various services to people citing the K. Kasturirangan committee recommendations.

The government has decided to issue a fresh order after receiving the recommendations of the three-member expert committee headed by Kerala State Biodiversity Board (KSBB) chairman Oommen V. Oommen which is currently taking evidence from people in the 123 villages coming under the ambit of the Kasturirangan committee recommendations.

In Wednesday’s order, the government had asked officers at the grassroots not to refuse to accept land tax or reject requests for registration of documents, title deeds, and permits for collecting firewood citing the order issued by the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) on November 16.

Information and Planning Minister K.C. Joseph told reporters at the venue of Chief Minister Oommen Chandy’s mass contact programme in Alappuzha on Saturday that the Chief Minister had issued instructions for withdrawal of the order in view of ‘certain concerns’ about the ecologically sensitive areas (ESA) and the need for greater clarity on the related issues. The government had issued Wednesday’s order in view of lack of clarity about the implications of the Kasturirangan committee report, he said.

A press note issued by the Chief Minister’s office here later in the day said the government wanted the officers concerned not to take any action till the government issued fresh orders on the issue. The Chief Minister, it said, had already apprised the Centre of the State’s concerns about the Kasturirangan panel’s position on ESAs and sought exclusion of densely populated areas from its ambit.

The Ministry’s order of November 16 had imposed a bar on mineral mining, quarrying, river sand-mining, establishment of thermal power projects, construction of buildings having a floor area of 20,000 sq.m. or above, establishment of townships covering 50 hectare area and constructed area of 1,50,000 sq.m. or above, and ‘red’ category industries. This, Wednesday’s State government order had stated, would not cause any difficulty to ordinary people or farmers. The government felt it necessary to withdraw the order since a committee appointed by it was still at work and the order itself could be seen as contradicting the MoEF’s order, the press note said.

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