The three-member expert panel constituted by the government to study the report of the Kasturirangan committee on the conservation of the Western Ghats has urged the government to repeal the Kerala Forest (Vesting and Management of Ecologically Fragile Lands) Act that empowers the Forest Department to take over EFL from private owners.
In its report submitted to Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy here on Friday, the expert panel headed by Oommen V. Oommen, Chairman, Kerala State Biodiversity Board, said the EFL Act had become redundant since its objectives had already been achieved. However, the report said it was up to the court to decide on the pending EFL cases.
During its sittings, the panel had received complaints of the Forest Department invoking the EFL Act to take over land from small farmers without compensation. Several farmers had expressed the fear that they would also lose their land and livelihood if the Ecologically Sensitive Areas (ESAs) were later converted into EFL.
The panel has sought the exclusion of inhabited zones, farmland and plantations from the ESAs demarcated by the High Level Working Group (HLWG) chaired by K. Kasturirangan. It stresses the need for physical verification of the ESAs identified by the HLWG and the Ecologically Sensitive Zones (ESZ1 and ESZ2) earmarked by the Gadgil committee to separate forests from settlements, farmland and plantations. It also recommended an assessment of the population density of the ESAs.
The report available on the websitewww.keralabiodiversity.orgcalls on the government to ban quarrying in ESAs and close down existing quarries in these locations. New quarries should maintain a distance of at least 500 m from forest borders and should be cleared by the State Environmental Impact Assessment Authority (SEIAA), it says.
The committee comprising executive vice president, Kerala State Council for Science, Technology and Environment V.N. Rajasekharan Pillai, and former Rubber Board chairman P.C. Cyriac prepared the report after wide-ranging consultations with people’s representatives, environmental activists, farmers, traders and political and religious leaders.
The committee received responses from 30,000 people.
Prof. Oommen and Mr. Cyriac submitted the report to the Chief Minister in the presence of Rural Development Minister K.C. Joseph and Environment Minister Thiruvanchoor Radhakrishnan.
Report available atwww.keralabiodiversity.org
Government told to ban quarrying in ESAs