Outfit asks Centre not to accept UDF govt proposal on Western Ghats
Kochi, Jul 22 : A Hindu outfit in Kerala today asked the Centre not to accept the Congress-led UDF government's proposal on conservation of Western Ghats, arguing that implementation of the "much-watered down" version of Kasturirangan report would destroy the ecology of the hills.
Noting that state has lost over 40,000 hectares of forest land in less than 30 years, Hindu Aikyavedi general secretary Kummanam Rajasekharan flayed the state government's decision to treat some forest areas in Western Ghats as non-forest category.
"Centre should not accept the state's proposal. How can we agree with the state's decision to differentiate forest land in Western Ghats as agriculture areas, plantations and inhabited lands? It will strengthen the hands of the people who have encroached 40,000 hectares of forest land in less than 30 year period," Rajasekharan told PTI.
Rajasekharan, who led a successful protest against the move to set up a private airport in an ecologically fragile area at Aranmula in Pathanamthitta, said he would urge the Environment Ministry not to accept the state's Ghats proposal.
His statement comes a day after Chief Minister Oommen Chandy directed Collectors to submit a comprehensive report, identifying ecologically fragile lands in 119 villages by July 25 to prepare the state's view on the Kasturirangan report on Western Ghats. Several Congress leaders, including former Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh and senior MLA V D Satheesan, have come out openly against the state government's stand that only forest land now protected by the Forest Department would be recommended for demarcation as Ecologically Sensitive Areas.
Expressing concern over government's stand to treat some areas in Western Ghats as non-forest category, Satheesan has said it would weaken the cases filed in various courts to reclaim forest land in illegal possession of private parties.
Opposing the state's controversial decision to treat cardamom plantations in the forests in the state as revenue land, Ramesh has said, "Cardamom plantations in ecologically sensitive areas must be treated as forest areas".
Congress leaders had questioned the silence of Sangh Parivar on the Environment Ministry's reported move to further dilute the Kasturirangan panel report on Western Ghats.
They had said that Ecologically Sensitive Areas in Ghats which will be protected is much lesser than the area identified in UPA rule and that RSS, which had "instigated the people to agitate" against the then government's decision to dilute the Madhav Gadgil panel report are "keeping mum" even after NDA government decided to "water it down further".