Kerala has termed some recommendations of the Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel (WGEEP) draconian.

In its response to the suggestions of the panel, the State came down heavily on the proposal to decommission dams older than 50 years. “Such a step will leave the State without power in a few years,” said a report signed by James Varghese, Principal Secretary to the Kerala Government.

The State argued that any further imposition of regulations on land use in the midlands and lowlands of Kerala would catalyse “environmentally denigrating activities.”

“A further regulatory regime on the effective land area for habitation and development would be grossly unjustifiable and unnecessary. Only 30 per cent of the land is at present outside the purview of zoning under some laws and introduction of further zones would make life impossible,” the State argued.

It pointed out that only 30.6 per cent of its land area was available for habitation, cultivation, and development activities and that too subject to zonal restriction under municipal laws and the Kerala Building Rules. The regulated areas in the State, including the inland and coastal wetlands and paddy lands, would come to 69.4 per cent of the total land area. The demand on land for housing and urbanisation had increased many times, resulting in a decline in availability of agricultural land, it said.

The State had nearly 10 per cent of India's unemployed population. “Unemployment fuels large-scale migration both within and outside the State and country. This leads to migration to highlands in search of more agricultural lands, which paves the way for encroachment of forest lands,” Kerala argued.

Too many authorities

Criticising the recommendation for formation of the Western Ghats Ecology Authority, Kerala contended that the proposed WGEA was almost on the lines of the Environment Impact Assessment Authority. The State Government proposed to form the Vembanad Eco Development Authority, and there was provision to form the State river and wetland authority and river basin boards. The “proliferation of the authorities having concurrent overlapping jurisdiction might perhaps spoil the broth,” it said. The existing laws, statutory popular fora such as the biodiversity management committees in all gram panchayats, and environmentalists in the State would more than serve the purpose, it argued.

Zonation criticised

The State said the zonation of ghats was carried out without any basis. The panel had also admitted that the zonation adopted was without full set of data as per the criteria adopted for demarcating ecologically sensitive zones, nor had it been able to cover all the criteria owing to lack of time.

“The zonation suggested in the report is totally faulty and unreliable as accepted by the authors.”

  • Criticises proposal on dam decommissioning

  • ‘Demarcation of zones without any basis'