Minister for Forests, Sports and Cinema K. B. Ganesh Kumar told the Assembly on Tuesday that the government proposed to take up programmes to regenerate forest cover.

Replying to the debate on the demand for grants for forest, the Minister said that the Department was undertaking regeneration of natural vegetation even in cities under the ‘Vana Deepti’ programme. One such scheme was being taken up in Thrissur town.

The Minister said that the government had not rejected the Madhav Gadgil Committee report on Western Ghats in toto. But, recommendations such as decommissioning of dams older than 50 years would not be acceptable. However, forests on the Ghats would have to be protected as even dams would be without water if there is no forest cover. The government was proposing to draw up a master plan to revive natural forest cover.

Mr. Ganesh Kumar said that protection of sites declared as World Heritage in the Kerala portion of the Ghats would not be difficult as 10 of them were in wildlife sanctuaries and the rest were in reserved forests.

Compensation

The Minister announced that the compensation for crop loss and injuries to humans in attacks by wild animals would be enhanced. The compensation for crop loss would go up from Rs. 50000 to Rs. 1 lakh (total that can be claimed over a year) while that for injuries would be hiked from Rs. 5000 to Rs. 75000. In the case of permanent disablement, the compensation payable would be increased from Rs. 75000 to Rs. 1 lakh.

Forest officers

He said that the designation of forest watches and guards would be changed to assistant beat forest officer and deputy range forest officer. About 700 tribals would be appointed as watchers. Jeeps with fire engines would be introduced for control of forest fires.

Community reserve

He also announced that bird habitats at Kattampally in Kannur district would be declared as community reserve. Private vehicles would not be allowed into ecotourism areas. Chief Minister Oommen Chandy would distribute available land to triabls in Wayanad on July 14.

The House later passed the demand for grants amounting to Rs. 266 crore.

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