Looting of natural resources and indulging in environment degrading activities like clearing of mangroves or unpermitted filling of wetlands, for pecuniary gains is now under the Vigilance scanner in Kerala. In view of widespread complaints about indiscriminate exploitation of natural resources with the alleged support of corrupt officials, the Vigilance and Anti-Corruption Bureau has drawn up a new action plan to expose corruption and organised crime in the environment sector and check its further spread.
Titled ‘Environmental Risk Vigilance’, the initiative is envisaged to take stock of activities in connection with various aspects of environment including air, water (river, lake, ocean, ponds, ground water), land, soil, minerals, wetlands and mangroves.
In a recent circular, Vigilance Director and DGP Jacob Thomas directed all VACB units to identify organized crime/corruption-chain in quarrying, sand mining, river/ water pollution, wetland/ paddy land filling, encroachment into public/forest land and construction in non-building zone, buffer zone and so on.
An ERV monthly report on these subjects should be sent by each Unit, by the last Monday of each month to the Director, the circular said. The report would comprise details like category of natural resources observed in the jurisdiction of each VACB unit, the type of environmental risks observed on land, water, air, wetlands, forest, public lands, coastal zone etc. there and the government departments and public servants involved.
It would also have details like non-use of authority or abuse of power by the public servants and action taken by the VACB in this regard including notice to them, vigilance action, further studies and so on.
Thomas said unlike many other Indian states, Kerala has a large number of highly ecologically sensitive zones and vulnerable hotspots, which demand urgent attention and scientific measures for conservation. Therefore, there cannot be any tolerance for negligence of abuse of power by authorities implementing environmental laws, he told media.
“But, unfortunately, both authorities and general public are less aware about the need to conserve these sites/zones or about the laws in this regard. Otherwise, there would not have been construction in highly vulnerable coastal zones or in sensitive forest lands in our state,” he said.