The Kerala Assembly on Thursday unanimously passed a resolution urging the Centre to exempt the State from declaring ecos-ensitive zones (ESZ) of 1 km around wildlife sanctuaries and national parks. It also called for a legislation that could enable the State overcome the Supreme Court directive in this regard.
Forest Minister A.K. Saseendran, who moved the resolution, said the apex court’s order had dealt a blow to the State’s efforts in excluding human-inhabited areas from the proposed ESZ. It has come at a time when a proposal that put forth the State’s demand was being considered by the Central government.
According to him, the inclusion of such areas within the notified zone is bound to affect large sections in the State where forests constitute nearly 30% of the entire geographical area. Moreover, the Western Ghats region in Kerala is spread across 48% of the total area. The State, which is blessed with numerous wetlands, is also densely populated at nearly 900 people per sq.km. and has been witnessing dwindling space for habitation.
The resolution stated that the Supreme Court order would affect public interest and create immense hardships for those residing in the forest fringes. There were numerous practical difficulties associated with implementing the directive.
Under such circumstances, the Centre must adopt necessary steps to ensure human inhabited areas, agricultural lands and public institutions that are situated in the close vicinity of protected areas did not come under the purview of ESZs, the resolution stated.
While participating in the discussion, Leader of Opposition V.D. Satheesan said the government ought to nullify a Cabinet decision of October 31, 2019 that imposed a 1-km ESZ around protected areas before approaching the Central Empowered Committee and the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change to obtain relief from the Supreme Court. Mr. Saseendran, however, maintained the Cabinet decision did not have bearing on the order.