Thiruvananthapuram: The state revenue department has barred permission to convert paddy field for house construction on properties bought after the Kerala Conservation of Paddy Land and Wetland Act, 2008, came into effect on August 12, 2008.
The revenue department has issued directives in this regard to the land revenue commissioner, district collectors, and revenue divisional officers based on a High Court order of June 6, 2017.
Widespread filling up of paddy fields over the decades has led to severe environmental repercussions in Kerala. Paddy fields which are wetland ecosystems morphed into house plots as people misused provisions of land rules despite moves to curb the practice.
The High Court had pointed out that the Act originally contained provisions to allow the farmers to live on their own paddy fields, but extending these provisions to those who bought paddy field after the Paddy Land and Wetland Act was implemented would lead to large-scale misuse.
However, as per the Kerala Conservation of Paddy Land and Wetland (Amendment) Act, 2018, when a request to change the information in the data bank is made, the Revenue Divisional Officer (RDO) has to seek report from the agricultural officer if the land is a paddy field, and from the village officer if it is wetland. The RDO can take an appropriate decision after carrying out inspection of the land, the revenue department has clarified.
Thousands to be affected
The revenue department's new directive is set to affect thousands of people.
The government is bound to implement the High Court order of 2017 on environment protection. However, the order effectively bars any construction of house or commercial building on a land given by a farmer to his children after 2008.
This would also put an end to the practice of converting 5 cents of farm land for building houses.
The new directive would adversely affect those who have filed applications to regularise the conversion after building the house.
Amendments to the Act were made in 2018 to bypass the court order and bring in some exemptions.
Currently, house or other constructions can be carried out on farm land that has not been included in the data bank.
If the land to be converted is included in the data bank, a request has to be made to a committee comprising village officer, agricultural officer, panchayat secretary and two social workers of the region. They will carry out inspections and take the necessary steps.
As per the Paddy Land Wetland (Amendment) Act, any omission or changes in the data bank can be made only after the local committee approves and based on its report a notification is issued. For this, the current notification need not be de-notified.