Kerala to hold field survey amid row over buffer zone | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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Kerala to hold field survey amid row over buffer zone

By, Thiruvananthapuram
Dec 21, 2022 12:29 AM IST

The satellite survey carried out by the Kerala State Remote Sensing and Environment Centre in September to identify man-made structures within the proposed one-km buffer zone around 23 wildlife sanctuaries and parks whipped up a big protest in the state.

As unrest mounted in hilly areas, the Kerala government on Tuesday decided to conduct a field survey of the buffer zone surrounding all wildlife parks and sanctuaries and said it will also approach the Supreme Court to seek more time to submit a satellite survey report on eco-sensitive zones (ESZ), according to the chief minister’s office.

The decision was taken in a meeting convened by chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan in the state capital after farmers’ outfits and the church announced agitation (HT PHOTO)
The decision was taken in a meeting convened by chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan in the state capital after farmers’ outfits and the church announced agitation (HT PHOTO)

The decision was taken in a meeting convened by chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan in the state capital after farmers’ outfits and the church announced agitation.

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The government will also extend the tenure of justice Thottathil Radhakrishnan’s committee for two more months, and affected people will be given more time to file their complaints with the panel, it said.

“The government will hear affected people and their representatives in detail and formulate a plan for a field verification survey. Officials will have a meeting with 87 panchayat presidents and secretaries on Wednesday. The SC will also be approached for more time in submitting satellite survey,” said a statement after the meeting.

The satellite survey carried out by the Kerala State Remote Sensing and Environment Centre in September to identify man-made structures within the proposed one-km buffer zone around 23 wildlife sanctuaries and parks whipped up a big protest in the state.

Protestors said the survey identified only 49,324 structures but missed out on many areas, and the total number of structures will cross 200,000. They said the survey map released on December 13 included only big structures and left out many thatched and mud houses, small shops and tents. They also said roads, water bodies and other important landmarks failed to find a place on the satellite map, giving the impression that it was forest land.

The whole issue started with the Supreme Court order on June 3, which said that all national parks and wildlife sanctuaries in the country should earmark a minimum distance of one kilometre as a buffer zone, where prohibited activities specified by the Centre, including mining and establishment of any new permanent structure, will not be permitted.

The court also said states could take the assistance of satellite imaging or photography using drones to identify structures in these areas. It also said if SEZs will have to be diluted in the interest of people living there, states can approach the central empowered committee and Union ministry of environment, forests and climate change.

Subsequently, a satellite survey was held, and an expert committee was constituted under former Chief Justice of West Bengal Thottathil Radhakrishnan. But satellite surveys aggravated the issue, forcing farmers to hit the streets.

Thamarassery Bishop Remigose Inchananiyil, who took a strong position on the buffer zone issue, said people would resist any move to displace them at any cost. He said the action taken by the government on the issue was steeped in mystery, and it neglected farmers’ fight for their survival.

“Is there a need to conduct a satellite survey? Why did the state fail to obtain a stay on the order like Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu did? We will resist the move at any cost. People living in fringe areas toiled their life to build their dwelling and farmland, and nobody can displace them,” he said.

“The government should not entrust the task to forest personnel who always nurse a grudge with farmers and local people,” he said.

Earlier in the day, two ministers, Antony Raju and Roshy Augustine called on Cardinal Baselios Cleemis in the state capital and apprised him of the situation. His intervention helped the government to end the three-month-long stir carried out by Latin Catholic Church and fishermen against the upcoming multi-utility seaport in Vizhinjam two weeks back.

Meanwhile, many areas in Wayanad, Kozhikode, Idukki and Thiruvananthapuram districts witnessed protests.

“We have been staying here for decades and paying land tax. How can they dislocate us on a fine morning? Even banks stopped giving loans citing the buffer zone issue,” N Nagarajan, a farmer in Amboori (Thiruvananthapuram) said.

He said more than 3000 families would be displaced in the district if the buffer zone was marked. The opposition Congress blamed the state government for the mess.

“It sat over the issue for a long when other states managed to obtain a stay. It vitiated the issue with satellite mapping, which was done casually. We will stand with affected people,” said opposition leader V D Satheesan.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR
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    Ramesh Babu is HT’s bureau chief in Kerala, with about three decades of experience in journalism.

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