Deadline extended till April 30

The government has given time till April 30 to panchayats to examine the revised Ecologically Sensitive Area (ESA) maps that have excluded 2,500 sq km of human settlements, plantations and agricultural land from the ESA demarcated by the High Level Working Group (HLWG) for Conservation of the Western Ghats (K. Kasturirangan panel).

Briefing media persons here after the Cabinet meeting on Tuesday, Chief Minister Oommen Chandy said that following requests from many panchayats to extend the deadline that ended on April 21, Additional Chief Secretary P.K. Mohanty and Chairman of the Kerala State Biodiversity Board Oommen V. Oommen had been given instructions in this regard.

Pointing out that the government was doing the ground work swiftly and in a time-bound manner, the Chief Minister said a State-level committee had been formed to carry out the final scrutiny and to grant approval.

The DFO’s would examine the maps before they were submitted to the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests.

‘Politically motivated’

He said a hartal called by the LDF and the High Range Karshaka Sanghom in Idukki on April 24 was “politically motivated and is aimed at creating problems.”

The government was committed to protecting the rights of farmers and the government policy on the issue had been made public.

“The agitators thought the Election Commission will not give its nod to the notification. It is not proper to bring politics into it. We have done our job and now we are trying to expedite the work and submit it,” he said.

Financial difficulties

Replying to a query, the Chief Minister said the State could tide over the financial difficulties by generating more income and by collecting the tax arrears due to the government.

The Cabinet discussed the government’s functioning and the projects that could be taken up in a time-bound manner in the coming 676 days.

“Half of the Ministers in the Cabinet have submitted the projects under the departments held by them and others will do so on Wednesday. It will be consolidated and will be taken up in the next Cabinet,” he said.

Code of conduct

In reply to a query, the Chief Minister said it was not proper in continuing with the model code of conduct in the State as the elections were over.

The State had sought relaxation in the case of drinking water, rubber procurement and Chief Minister’s relief fund. The Election Commission was yet to give its reply to the request, Mr. Chandy said.

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