Palakkad Bishop to lead farmers against ESA, ESZ

Farmers under the leadership of Palakkad Bishop Mar Jacob Manathodath will go on a warpath seeking drastic corrections in the Ecologically Sensitive Area (ESA) and Eco Sensitive Zone (ESZ) notifications for the Western Ghats.

“The State government should use its discretionary powers to save thousands of farmers from depravation before the ESA and ESZ final notifications come into force,” said Bishop Manathodath here on Wednesday.

Sections of farmers from across the district have united under the Palakkad Diocese to press the government on the ESA-ESZ rules. The Supreme Court has given the Central government time till December 31 to bring out the final notification on the ecosensitive areas and zones around forests and wildlife sanctuaries.

The Bishop said that farmers in the district were not aware of the dangers they would have to face if the rules in the current form come into force. “The Forest Department says no farmer will be evicted from their land. But the new regulations will force the farmers to abandon their lands,” said Bishop Manathodath.

The Diocese and the Kerala Independent Farmers Association (KIFA) will organize awareness sessions at 120 locations across Palakkad in two days. “We will be doing it by maintaining COVID-19 protocol. If the government does not heed the genuine demands of the farmers, we will have to launch an agitation,” said the Bishop, calling upon the people to give their votes to those who support the farmers.

A renewed list of ESA villages submitted last year by the State government had removed 31 villages from the original 123 ESA villages mentioned by Prof. Oommen V. Oommen Commission report in 2014. At the same time, the National Green Tribune has proscribed Kerala from reducing the size of the ESA villages originally submitted. “If the government finds the space lost for 31 removed villages in the remaining 92 villages, the situation will further worsen for the people of 13 ESA villages in Palakkad district,” said K.T. Thomas, chairman of Kanhirapuzha Planters Association.

KIFA leaders V.K. Aboobacker and V. Devaraj said that human habitats and farmlands should be exempted from ESA villages. They said the ESZ should be limited to forest boundaries. “If ESZ is extended to one kilometer as suggested by the government, it will affect the people living in the fringe areas badly,” they said.

According to Mr. Thomas, the use of geo coordinates to demarcate the ESZ and ESA boundaries will be impractical as it will deprive farmers much of their farmland. “Replacing the current system of demarcating stone boundaries with geo coordinates is not practical at all,” he said.

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Printable version | Jan 23, 2021 5:38:32 PM |

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