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Kerala toughens stand against Kasturirangan report

Kerala toughens stand against Kasturirangan report

Thiruvananthapuram: With apprehensions over the Kasturirangan report on Western Ghats conservation turning into a hot political issue ahead of Lok Sabha polls in Kerala, Congress-led UDF government will be taking a strong stand against implementation of the report in its present form at the meeting of states concerned in Delhi Thursday.

Disclosing this during after a cabinet meeting here Wednesday, Chief Minister Oommen Chandy said the State had formulated its stand on the issue after thorough studies and assessment and its views would be presented at tomorrow's meeting, called by the Environment Ministry.

"We have already informed the Centre of our disagreement on the matter. Our officials will be explaining our position in detail at the meeting based on the findings of the experts' committee set up by us to study the matter," Chandy told reporters.

Chandy said the State gave top priority to protection of nature and its forest cover was above the national average.

"Though the report concerns six states, no other state has done a thorough study as Kerala has done. Apart from setting up the experts' committee, we have also carried out a ground level survey," he said.

Kerala's main concern has been over identification of over 120 villages on the slopes of the Western Ghats as Ecologically Sensitive Area (ESA) by the panel despite these villages have thousands of small and marginal farmers living there for generations.

Ever since the Centre approved the panel report a few months ago, people in the upland areas have been up in arms against its implementation with the support of all political parties, barring the BJP.

The Catholic Church also lent its unstinted support to the resistance campaign since a large chunk of the settler farmers in the hilly areas like Idukki and Wayanad belong to the community.

Meanwhile, the Catholic Bishops Council of Kerala has prepared a circular against implementation of the proposals mooted by the panel.

According to church sources, the circular, to be read out in churches shortly, would call upon the faithful to vote against the proponents of the report.


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