The Union Ministry of environment, Forests and climate change (MoEFCC) has upraised the restrictions obligatory on new comes and activities in 3,115 sq km of human settlements, plantations and agricultural land in Kerala that are enclosed within the Ecologically Sensitive Areas (ESAs) known by the Kasturirangan committee on the conservation of the Western Ghats.
The modification to the direction issued underneath Section 5 of the environment (Protection) Act (EPA) effectively exempts the 3,115 sq km from the restrictions on granting environmental clearance for 5 categories of comes and activities that have most interventionist and damaging impacts on ecosystems.
The report of the High Level social unit, headed by K. Kasturirangan, had counseled the demarcation of a complete of 59,940 sq metric linear unit as ESA within the six States bordering the Western Ghats, specifically Gujarat, maharashtra, Goa, Karnataka, Kerala and tamil nadu. The extent of ESA in Kerala was pegged at 13,108 sq km, a region meet 123 villages.
Following widespread protests and political turmoil, the Kerala government, on the premise of a ground-level verification, had planned that the ESA be restricted to 9,993 sq km, as well as 9,107 sq km of forests and 886 sq km of non-forest space.
Approving the State government’s recommendation, the draft notification issued by the MoEFCC on March ten, 2014, had reduced the territorial extent of ESA in Kerala by 3,115 sq km. Taking this reduction into consideration, the MoEFCC had reworked the figures and notified a complete of 56,825 sq metric linear unit as ESA rather than the initial 59,940 sq km. succeeding notifications issued in 2015, 2017 and 2018 had conjointly demarcated the identical space as ESA. However, the notifications fixed that the direction issued by the Ministry underneath the Environmental Protection Agency Act on Nov 13, 2013, would hold smart. This had effectively place the brakes on new comes and activities within the earmarked areas.
The modification notified on December 3, 2018, states that the direction would be applicable solely to 56,825 sq km of ESA as mentioned within the draft notification.
Former Chief Minister Oommen Chandy aforesaid the modification was a vindication of the steps taken by the previous UDF government to safeguard the interests of farmers and households within the highlands.
Idukki MP Joice george told The Hindu that the immediate beneficiary of the modification would be the Idukki Medical college Hospital (MCH) project. “The construction work was over however with the restrictions in place, the project couldn't secure environmental clearance, casting a shadow over its future. The modification has breathed recent life into the project and cleared the manner for categories to start in 2019.”