Thiruvananthapuram: The Centre’s decision to implement the salient recommendations of the Kasturirangan panel on conservation of the Western Ghats has sparked protests across Kerala. Thousands of people live on the slopes of the biodiversity hot spot in the State.
According to a notification issued by the Environment Ministry, mining, quarrying, construction of thermal plants and big building complexes would be banned in ecologically sensitive areas, identified by the Kasturirangan panel, which was formed as a follow-up on the earlier Madhav Gadgil committee.
In Kerala, 121 villages across various districts have been identified under this category, almost all of them thickly populated.
Most mainstream parties, including the ruling UDF partners, farmers’ outfits and community establishments including the Catholic Church have come out openly against the report, fearing its implementation would ultimately lead to displacement of hundreds of families settled in high-range Idukki and Wayanad districts and in upland areas of many other districts.
Seeking to allay apprehensions, Chief Minister Oommen Chandy said there was no room for panic over the issue since the ban would apply only to ecologically dangerous activities and would not come in the way of the common man and his livelihood.
Chandy also rejected the possibility of the experts’ panel, set up by the State Government recently on the issue, becoming redundant with the Centre’s decision.
Declining to go by Chandy’s assurance that the notification still left scope for remedies, the Opposition LDF and some non-political farmers’ outfits have called for a shutdown in Idukki district and settlers’ areas of Malappuram Saturday while in Kozhikode district, it was observed Friday.
Last evening, an irate crowd held captive some forest personnel near Kottiyur in Kannur district for several hours mistaking them for officials having come there to conduct a survey ahead of implementation of the conservation measures.
Apart from the Left, the UDF component Kerala Congress (M), which has a strong support base among the settler farmers, has expressed serious concern at the development.
The Catholic establishment in the State has openly come out against the Madhav Gadgil and Kasturirangan committee reports and a pastoral letter was read out in churches in Idukki last Sunday warning of serious consequences if the Government went ahead with them.