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Panel to recommend withdrawal of EFL Act

Staff Reporter
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Consultations with stakeholders on Ghat conservation

P.C. Syriac, member of the expert panel constituted to formulate the State’s response to the K. Kasturirangan committee recommendations, addresses a gathering at Kalpetta in Wayanad on Wednesday.
P.C. Syriac, member of the expert panel constituted to formulate the State’s response to the K. Kasturirangan committee recommendations, addresses a gathering at Kalpetta in Wayanad on Wednesday.

The State government will be asked to withdraw the Kerala Forest (Vesting and Management of Ecologically Fragile Lands) Act, 2003, P.C. Syriac, member of the expert panel constituted by the government to formulate the State’s response to the K. Kasturirangan committee recommendations, has said.

He was addressing mediapersons after concluding the two-day consultations the team had with various stakeholders including farmers, people’s representatives, and environmental groups in the district here on Wednesday.

The panel could understand during its sittings that many a time the Act had been implemented arbitrarily and it caused difficulty to the farming community in the hilly areas of the State. The over-enthusiasm by some Forest officials in implementing the Act without considering the issues of the farming community had put them in peril, he said. There were 978 grama panchayats in the State and if the recommendations of the K. Kasturirangan panel were implemented, it would affect close to 300 grama panchayats. Hence, the panel would ask the government to implement the recommendations only after identifying the ecologically sensitive areas (ESA) in each panchayat by a people’s body constituted for the purpose, he said.

The panel would ask the government to discard some of the recommendations such as discouraging the cultivation of crops including tapioca and paddy on slopes of more than 30 degree as it would adversely affect the farmers, Mr. Syriac said adding that the traditional farmers in the State had been using the contour-bund method to cultivate crops even on 60-degree slopes, he said.

Mono-crop cultivations including teak and eucalyptus plantations in the forest areas of the State had caused shortage of fodder and water to the wildlife population and it amplified incidence of man-animal conflict on the fringes of forests.

Hence, the panel would strongly recommend restoring natural forests in those areas, he said. Though the Kasturirangan committee had recommended discouraging mono-crops, it might be misinterpreted by some bureaucrats thereby affecting the cultivation of crops such as coffee, tea, and rubber, Mr. Syriac said. The panel would ask the government to reject such anti-farmer recommendations, he said.

The three-member panel, headed by Oommen V. Oommen, had V.N. Rajashekharan Pillai as member. It had held five sittings, including the one here. There would be 15 more sittings in various districts. The team would submit its recommendations to the government by December 15, Mr. Oommen said.

The panel received the grievances and proposals submitted by people’s representatives, farmer organisations, and eco groups.

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