Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Buffer zone: Kerala government seeks relaxation from Supreme Court in mandation of 1 km ESZ around protected forests

The Kerala government has filed an intervention application in the Supreme Court seeking relaxation in its June 3, 2022 order, which mandated a minimum of one km Eco Sensitive Zone around all protected forests in the country.

Earlier, the Kerala government had filed a petition seeking review of the Apex Court order. 
The main matter in which the Kerala Government has filed this Intervention Application through Advocate on Record Nishe Rajen Shonker, will be taken up for hearing on January 11.

It said the adjudication of the application would give finality to the ground that exemption be granted to the proposals in which final or draft notification has already been issued and pending consideration before the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change.
The petition had contended that certain facts peculiar to the State of Kerala had not been placed before the Apex Court. It further said that the population density of the state was more than twice the population density of the country and the mandatory ESZ, along with the ban on permanent constructions, would create ‘insurmountable’ difficulties in the state. 
As per the plea, the total forest area of Kerala came to 11521.813 sq km, which amounted to 29.65 percent of the geographical area of the state. As per the 2011 census, the population density of Kerala was 860 people per sq km, which indicated population growth of an average annual rate of 12.37 percent from 435 during the 1961 Census.
It submitted that a large number of small and medium townships with human habitation and attendant facilities had already been developed over the past several decades within the proposed buffer zone of one km from forests. 
It said large areas of land have already been assigned to persons who were occupying forest area in terms of the Kerala Land Assignment (Regularisation of Occupations of Forest Lands prior to January 1, 1977) Special Rules of 1993, which has been upheld by the Supreme Court in the decision Nature Lovers Movement vs State of Kerala, reported in 2009. 
The petition said there was no scope of resettling the inhabitants, given the absolute paucity of land in Kerala.
The review petition, as well as the intervention application alleged that the Apex Court verdict of June 3 last year had not taken into consideration the ESZ proposals in respect of which the MoEFCC had issued final notification. 
Kerala has already submitted its proposal with respect to 17 Wildlife Sanctuaries and six National Parks, which were being considered by the MoEFCC, it added. 
It further said that draft notification had been issued for all these Protected Areas except Periyar National Park. In the case of Mathikeetan Shola National Park, the final notification has been issued by the MoEFCC, added the plea. 

The petition said that proceedings to issue final notifications were underway for 20 Protected Areas, for which the draft notification had already been issued, while the draft ESZ proposal of Karimpuzha Wildlife Sanctuary was pending submission.

The Supreme Court had ruled on June 3 last year that Uniform Guidelines may not be possible in respect of each sanctuary or national parks for maintaining ESZ and therefore, the States were directed to approach the Central Empowered Committee (CEC) and the Ministry, seeking relaxation as and when required, in public interest.


News Update