A scientific scrutiny of thousands of complaints on “missed out” structures in the Ecologically Sensitive Zone (ESZ) of protected areas in Kerala will begin shortly.
The State government had asked local bodies as well as individuals to submit complaints regarding the structures that were missing from the satellite image-based survey conducted by the Kerala State Remote Sensing and Environment Centre (KSRSEC). The survey was carried out as instructed by the Supreme Court, which had proposed a 1-km ESZ around the boundaries of the protected areas.
The State had witnessed fierce protests by farmers’ groups, settlers and political parties, which feared that the demarcation of the ESZ would be detrimental to the lives of the people living in the forest fringes. Though the data generated by the centre reportedly satisfied the directives of the apex court, the intense public agitation forced the State government to set up help desks across nearly 80 villages that fall within the ESZ and receive complaints.
Nearly 63,000 of the 68,000 complaints thus received have been uploaded into the mobile application developed by the KSRSEC for evaluation. The complaints from the protected Parambikulam, Wayanad and Peechi-Vazhani remain to be uploaded. The process will be over in three days, according to State authorities.
The complaints uploaded to the mobile application will be first scrutinised for duplication. The structures located outside the 1-km periphery of the protected areas will then be excluded. The data generated by the centre through satellite images will be verified with the data collected through field verification.
The final data, which will be complete with the statistics on the number of houses, commercial units, farmlands, public places and government buildings, will be superimposed on the maps of the areas. The data and the maps thus generated for all 23 protected areas will be submitted to the Supreme Court as a piece of additional information to buttress the argument of the State to exclude human habitations from the ESZ, sources said.