Final ESA notification on Ghats sought

Leader of the Opposition Ramesh Chennithala on Monday sought President Ram Nath Kovind’s intervention to get the Union government to issue the final notification on ecologically sensitive areas (ESAs) in the Western Ghats based on the earlier three draft notifications.

Mr. Chennithala virtually broke protocol by submitting his petition to the President on the dais at the inauguration function of the Festival on Democracy, organised by the Legislative Assembly to mark its diamond jubilee celebrations. The Centre had issued the draft notifications on March 10, 2014; September 4, 2015; and February 27, 2017. The petition, which caught the LDF government off the guard, assumed significance because the validity of the last draft notification will expire on August 26.

Mr. Chennithala said the Kasthurirangan report had identified 123 villages in Kerala as Ecologically Sensitive Areas (ESA). The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, acceding to Kerala’s request, had issued the draft notifications on three occasions proclaiming that the agricultural areas, orchards, horticultural plots, plantations and residential areas in the State will be kept out of the ESA classification.

But the Ministry subsequently objected to the existence of ESA and non-ESA areas in the same village since the Kasthurirangan report had recommended ‘village’ as the basic unit of ESA. Mr. Chennithala said it would not be feasible to treat village as the basic unit since there were large tracts of farm land and residential areas in the 123 villages.

Population density

Moreover, the Kasthurirangan report had recommended excluding villages which had a population density that exceeds 100 per sq km from the purview of ESA norms. The density of population in all the 123 villages exceeds the set limits. “Thus, the objection raised by the Ministry is unsustainable as per the recommendations in the Kasthurirangan report,” he said.

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