Letter to the Minister of State for Environment, Forests & Climate Change

Dear Shri. Anil Madhav Dave ji,

I would like to bring to your kind attention the urgency to finalise the draft notification of the Ministry dated 04/09/2015 before 04/03/2017 so as to bring to closure the concerns and apprehension of the people in the ESA villages listed in the draft notification of the Ministry dated 10/03/2014.

The primary objective of demarcating the ESA and non-ESA areas of the Western Ghats is to ensure protection and conservation of the natural landscape and to facilitate the sustainable development of the cultural landscape of non-ESA regions. Based on the report and the recommendations of the State, the Ministry accepted an area of 9993.7 sq. km forming part of ESA in Kerala as against 13108 sq. Km in 123 villages given in Dr Kasturirangan report (HLWG), while issuing the draft notification dated 10/03/2014.

After preliminary scrutiny of the State Government proposal dated 28/07/2015 with respect to the cadastral maps of 119 villages which fall in the ESA, Ministry had informed the State that the HLWG Report has used the village as a demarcation unit for ESA while the State had broken the ESA within the villages into Survey Nos. falling within ESA and non ESA and had stated that the unit of demarcation of ESA would continue to remain a village.

State Government has already informed the Ministry that treating whole village as ESA cannot be justified and is an impractical approach as far as Kerala is concerned since it has the highest density of population among the States in the Western Ghats Region and the villages are very large.

The draft notification dated, 04/09/2015 retained the same area of ESA for Kerala as in the draft notification dated 10/03/2014. State had written to the Ministry on 27/10/2015 that the draft notification dated 04/09/2015 may be restricted to Reserve Forests, Protected area and World Heritage sites.

I understand that during the meeting with the MPs in the Ministry on 12/08/2016, there was a consensus that different States have different kinds of problems and therefore have to be addressed accordingly and there has to be a balance between environment and development.

As you are aware that unlike other States, Kerala had demarcated ESA based on cadastral maps prepared by technically and democratically assigned Panchayat level committees consisting of Grama Panchayat President, Grama Panchayat Secretary, Village Officer, Agricultural Officer, Forest Officer and Surveyor after physical verification and ground level fine tuning.

Therefore, it is necessary, given the concerns among ordinary farmers and other people on the prohibitory directions of the Ministry dated 13/11/2013, and the continuing uncertainty and impasse in finalising the draft notification dated, 04/09/2015, the issue is addressed as early as possible.

886.7 sq.km of non-forest ESA in the draft notification dated 10/03/2014, intercepting and interspersed among high density of population, townships, plantations etc, includes small patches of rocky area, wet lands, natural stream intercepting vast area of Non ESA. The State would, therefore, request that these 886.7 square kilometre of non forest ESA’s may be treated as separate unit areas and excluded from the draft notification and State Government would protect these ecosystem areas subjecting them to State Laws and Regulations.

The State Government would conserve, protect and rejuvenate the area of 886.7 sq.km, with people’s participation and decision making at Grama Sabhas of Panchayats. State has constituted Bio diversity Management committees ( BMC) at Panchayat level and they are already very vibrant and active and so they can play very decisive role in conservation and protection.

Therefore, in the larger interest of the State and conservation of environment and bio-diversity, I would urge the Ministry to issue the final notification confining the ESA in Kerala to 9107 sq.km.

State of Kerala is looking forward to favourable consideration and necessary action in this regard.

Yours sincerely,

PINARAYI VIJAYAN

Shri. Anil Madhav Dave,
Minister of State for Environment, Forests & Climate Change
[Independent charge],
Government of India,
Indira Paryavaran Bhawan, Jor Bagh Road,
New Delhi-110 003.