Protests are mounting in the mountainous regions of Kerala against a Supreme Court directive last week that every protected forest area and wildlife sanctuary should have an Environmentally Sensitive Zone (ESZ) within one kilometer of its border.
Idukki County on Friday is watching bombardment from dawn to dusk, called by the Governor’s CPI (M), requesting Union government intervention in a Supreme Court directive. The Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) also called for a harsh crackdown on 16 June in the region, which saw a series of protests in 2013-2014 against the recommendations of the Kasturirangan Commission’s report on the Western Ghats.
In Wayanad district, various political parties, farmers and business bodies have organized protests in the coming weeks. The People’s Congress (M) and the Congress are holding separate protest rallies in Wayanad on Friday.
Political parties and farmers’ groups in Kerala are calling for all human settlements to be exempted from ESZ. The new guidance came at a time when the state’s mountainous regions are experiencing an unprecedented surge in wildlife attacks.
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Last Friday, the three-judge panel of the Supreme Court directed all states to leave a mandatory environmentally sensitive area within one kilometer of the boundaries of national parks, wildlife sanctuaries and other protected forest lands. The court was considering a lawsuit in the public interest to protect the forest lands of Nilgiris in the state of Tamil Nadu. Subsequently, the petition to protect these natural resources was expanded across the country.
The request came as Kerala completed a draft ESZ notification for 20 out of 24 wildlife reserves, and the proposals were submitted to the union government.
Kerala Forest Minister AK Sasendran said the state wants to exclude all human settlements from the economic and social district’s jurisdiction. Kerala has 24 wildlife sanctuaries. The Supreme Court order came at a time when we had already submitted to the Department of Environment, Forestry and Climate Change our proposals for an ESZ area of 20 protected areas, completely excluding human habitats from the buffer zone. If the court’s directive is implemented, it will affect farmers in the hilly areas of the state. Moreover, we have to start the process of demarcating the special economic zone again.
After a high-level meeting, Sassandran said the state government will submit a review petition to the Supreme Court. The state will explore a motion in the Supreme Court order, which states that “the ESZ minimum bid may be relaxed in the overwhelming public interest, but for this purpose, the respective state or union territory shall contact the Central Committee with Power and the Department of Environment, Forestry and Climate Change.”
Kerala Independent Farmers Association President Alex Ozukail said the court ruling would have far-reaching consequences. “The total extent of Kerala’s wildlife sanctuaries is eight acres. If one kilometer of SEZs were demarcated from its borders, then about 4 acres of human settlement, including agricultural land, would be within that range. This would be an enormous matter of survival,” he said. of people.
The KIFA Chairman said that according to the new directive, farmers can only carry out agricultural activities and cannot build commercial buildings. There are restrictions on infrastructure development. “The farmers have already protested against the anti-farmer conditions in the draft buffer zone proposals. The state should intervene to protect the interests of the peasants because it does not reflect the reality of the land.”