LDF, UDF blame each other over eco-sensitive zone issue

Kodiyeri Balakrishnan and VD Satheesan | Photos: Mathrubhumi

Thiruvananthapuram/Kochi: The CPM and the Congress-led UDF on Sunday blamed each other for the recent Supreme Court directive to maintain a one kilometre wide eco-sensitive zone around wildlife sanctuaries and national parks.

Addressing reporters at Thiruvananthapuram, CPM state secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan claimed that it was in 2011 that then Union Environment and Forest Minister Jairam Ramesh came out with the concept of buffer zone and as per his directions then UDF government in Kerala had constituted a commission to examine whether it could be implemented in the southern state.

Thereafter, the commission, which also comprised Congress leader V D Satheesan, had recommended that a 10 kilometer wide buffer zone can be put in place around wildlife sanctuaries and national parks.

Leader of Opposition (LoP) in the state assembly, Satheesan, on the other hand, claimed that a 2019 Cabinet meeting headed by Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan had in-principle decided that there should be a one kilometre wide buffer zone.

Now that is what the Supreme Court has also said and the CPM was protesting against it in Wayanad and Idukki, he said, speaking to reporters in Kochi, and asked "why are they trying to mislead the people?"

Balakrishnan, answering queries of reporters on the issue, also said that in 2020 and later in 2021, the state Forest department had moved a proposal before the Centre to exempt agricultural land and dwelling places from such buffer or eco-sensitive zones.

He said that the Forest department had also decided to move the apex court in this regard.

It was during the final stage of deliberations over the state government's proposal by the Centre that the apex court directions were issued.

He said a CPM state secretariat meeting held recently had decided to urge the state government to call a high level meeting to hold discussions and hear the grievances of all the stakeholders on exempting dwelling places and agricultural land from the limits of such zones.

If required the state government should enact necessary legislation to address the public's concerns.

He assured that the state government would take all necessary steps to ensure interests of persons affected by the apex court directive are taken care of.

The top court had recently issued a direction that each protected forest, including national parks and wildlife sanctuaries, must have an ESZ of one kilometre and banned mining activities within such parks across the nation.

The high range areas of Kerala, particularly areas in Idukki, Wayanad, Kottayam and Pathanamthitta districts, had been witnessing hartals by various political and farmers' groups against the apex court order delivered on June 3.

Issuing a slew of directions, a bench headed by Justice L Nageswara Rao had on June 3 ordered that no permanent structure will be allowed within such ESZs and said if the local law or other rules provide for an ESZ of more than one km then the earlier provision would continue to apply.

The SC order came on a batch of applications filed on a pending PIL of 1995 and they raised two sets of issues with the first one related to mining activities in and around Jamua Ramgarh, a wildlife sanctuary in Rajasthan.

The second set of issues was related to prescribing ESZs surrounding the wildlife sanctuaries and national parks.


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