Today's Paper

ESA demarcation: State to bank on population density argument

The State government went into a huddle on Wednesday following the clarifications sought by the Union Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC) on the demarcation of ESAs (Ecologically Sensitive Areas) in Kerala.

Ministers and senior officials participated in a series of meetings convened through the day to prepare the State’s response to the letter from the MoEFCC Secretary to the Chief Secretary, seeking details of Kerala’s shapefile (a GIS data format), explanation on management of fragmented ESAs, and geographic coordinates of the ESA boundaries.

Officials said a note providing the details sought by the Ministry had been prepared and submitted to the Principal Secretary, Environment, by evening.

Sources said Kerala had sought to project the high population density in the State to justify the exclusion of human settlements and plantations from the ESAs and the fragmentation of ESAs.

According to the data provided in the note, Kerala had a much higher population density than the five other States bordering the Western Ghats. While the average village level population in Gujarat is 3,265, it is 2,557 in Maharashtra, 3,683 in Goa, 2,068 in Karnataka, and 4,402 in Tamil Nadu, while in Kerala, the figure is as high as 20,052.

The figures are a clear indication of the critical importance of people’s participation in conservation programmes in Kerala, says an official.

Pointing out that Kerala has a forest cover of 29.1 per cent, higher than India’s forest cover of 21.5 per cent, the official said any effort to increase the green cover would be totally dependent on community involvement.

Sources said Chief Minister Oommen Chandy was scheduled to hand over the State’s response to Union Minister for Environment and Forests Prakash Javadekar in New Delhi on September 4. Mr. Chandy will be accompanied by Environment Minister Thiruvanchoor Radhakrishnan, Principal Secretary, Environment, Mara Pandian and chairman of Kerala State Biodiversity Board Oommen V. Oommen.

The final notification on the recommendations of the Kasturirangan committee for protection of the Western Ghats is expected to be issued on September 9.