Updated: July 1, 2022 3:21:50 am
The Kerala government on Thursday decided to file a modification petition in the Supreme Court in connection with its June 3 order that said all protected forest tracts and wildlife sanctuaries in the country should have eco-sensitive zones of one kilometre from their boundaries.
The government decision comes amid growing protests in the hilly regions of the Western Ghats demanding that all human settlements be exempted from the proposed eco-sensitive zones rule. The issue came into focus last week after the ruling CPM’s students wing, the SFI, vandalised Congress MP Rahul Gandhi’s office in Wayanad in protest against “his inaction’’ to allay people’s fears in the matter.
After a high-level meeting convened by Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan to discuss the issue, an official communication from his office said the advocate-general had been entrusted with looking into whether the state can make legislation in this regard to bypass the apex court directive.
The government has decided to take up the state’s concerns with the Central government as well as the Central Empowered Committee. Details of the existing civic infrastructure and construction activities within the eco-sensitive zones will be furnished before the Supreme Court. Besides, a draft notification demanding that human settlements be exempted from the purview of the eco-sensitive zone rule will be submitted to the Centre.
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Ever since the Supreme Court issued its order, farmers in Kerala have been protesting demanding that human settlements be exempted from the proposed buffer zone rule. As Kerala has 24 wildlife sanctuaries, the proposal for having one-kilometre buffer zones from the boundaries of protected forests has raised concern among lakhs of people living within such areas.
On Thursday, the Opposition blamed the CPM for the present crisis over the buffer zone rule. Opposition leader VD Satheesan said the government had failed to apprise the Supreme Court of the state’s concerns. The Congress-led government of Oommen Chandy had decided to avoid all human habitats from the eco-sensitive zones, he said, adding that the Left Democratic Front government in 2019 decided to create buffer zones of one kilometre from the boundaries of protected forests. Had the government decided to avoid human settlements from the buffer zone, the state would not have faced the present situation, Satheesan said after the Opposition walked out of the Assembly.
A delegation of the Kerala Catholic Bishops Council met the chief minister and the Opposition leader, urging their intervention to allay the fears of the people.
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