AK Saseendran | Photo: Mathrubhumi
Thiruvananthapuram: The Kerala government on Monday said that its decision to exclude or exempt residential and agricultural areas as well as government, semi-government and public institutions from the one-kilometre wide eco-sensitive zone (ESZ) has been communicated to the Centre, the Supreme Court and the Central Empowered Committee.
The submission was made by state Forest Minister A K Saseendran in the assembly in response to a query by the Congress-led UDF opposition on the steps taken to exclude residential and agricultural areas from the ESZ.
Saseendran said the Cabinet had on July 27 taken a decision to exclude such areas and the same has been communicated to the Central government and the committee for inclusion in the final notification on the ESZ.
He said that taking into account the objections received against a Central government draft notification which included residential areas around 23 wildlife sanctuaries and national parks in the state, the Cabinet decided to approve the Forest Department's proposal to exclude such areas, agricultural land, and the various public institutions from the ESZ.
The Forest and Wildlife Department's proposal has also been forwarded to the Centre, he said.
The other steps taken by the government also include a review plea filed in the apex court requesting it to re-examine its June 3 order to create a one-kilometre ESZ around all wildlife sanctuaries and national parks, he said.
The opposition on the other hand said that if the state government does not set aside or withdraw its earlier decision of 2019 on buffer zones and issue a new one as per the Cabinet decision of July 27, then it will suffer a setback in the apex court and before the empowered committee.
According to the opposition, a 2019 Cabinet decision had in-principle decided that there should be a one-km wide buffer zone.
Leader of Opposition (LoP) in the state assembly V D Satheesan said that presently the 2019 order is in existence and therefore, the apex court and the empowered committee will not consider the state's plea. Thus, the 2019 order should be replaced with a new one in accordance with the July 27 Cabinet decision, he said.
Saseendran as well as state Law Minister P Rajeeve said there was no need to do that.
The apex court on June 3 had directed that each protected forest, including national parks and wildlife sanctuaries, must have an ESZ of one km and banned mining activities within such parks across the nation.
The top court came on a batch of applications filed on a pending PIL (public interest litigation) 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.