Kerala submits revised ESA demarcation in Western Ghats

The centre had sought the views of states on the ESAs for issuing the final notification based on the report of the Kasturirangan committee, set up to suggest measures to conserve and protect the ecology of the Western Ghats.

The Kerala Government has submitted to the Centre its revised recommendations on the demarcation of 'ecologically sensitive areas' (ESAs) in the Western Ghats in the state, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan told the state assembly on Monday. A new report with the suggestions had been prepared based on the survey and studies conducted by the Kerala State Remote Sensing and Environment Centre (KSREC), he said.

The centre had sought the views of states on the ESAs for issuing the final notification based on the report of the Kasturirangan committee, set up to suggest measures to conserve and protect the ecology of Western Ghats in Goa, Gujarat, Karnataka, Kerala, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu.

As per the Kasthurirangan report, a total of 13,108 sq km including stretches in 123 villages in Kerala was proposed to be demarcated as ecologically fragile land under the ESA. The high range areas of the state had witnessed protests after the Centre passed two orders in November 2013 for implementing the report, which imposed several restrictions, including on taking up of construction and quarrying.

Following the protests, the state assembly had unanimously passed a resolution in January 2014 asking the Centre to exempt populated, agriculture and plantation areas from the ambit of ESA. Vijayan said KSREC "has clearly defined the ESAs in the region based on facts.

Its report and recommendations were recently approved by the state cabinet and submitted to the Centre for its consideration," he said. He said the state expected that the Centre would accept the revised recommendations while issuing the final notification. He was replying to a notice for an adjournment motion seeking a discussion on the difficulties faced by local people in high range Munnar in the Western Ghats for getting no-objection-certificate (NoC) for constructing houses.

Instructions had been given to the Idukki District Collector to issue the NoC for building houses, Vijayan said. He also said an exclusive legislation to resolve various issues in Munnar such as construction activities was under the government's active consideration. Moving the motion, KC(M) leader K M Mani said one of the reasons given by the revenue officials for denying NoC was the non-issuing of the final notification under the Kasturirangan report.

The leader of the Opposition Ramesh Chennithala (Congress) said as per available information, the final notification was unlikely to be issued in August as expected. Some other southern states were yet to submit their recommendations and hence the notification was likely to be delayed further, he said.

The opposition members later staged a walkout protesting the government's refusal to take up the matter for discussion. As per the Centre's February 2014 draft notification, the ESA in Kerala is spread over an area of 9,993.7 sq km comprising 9,107 sq km of forest areas and 886.7 sq km of non-forest area.

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Kerala submits revised ESA demarcation in Western Ghats

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