Kerala to seek legal opinion over SC directive on 1 km ESZ

Forest officials worried over non-payment of salaries to Marayoor guards

Thiruvananthapuram/Kozhikode: Kerala’s Secretary of Forests will soon seek legal opinion from the Advocate General on the recent directive of the Supreme Court of India to ensure a one-km ESZ (eco-sensitive zone) around wildlife sanctuaries and national parks.

In fact, the Kerala Government has instructed the Forest Secretary to meet the Advocate General this week itself and subsequently discuss the matter with Kerala’s standing counsel in Supreme Court. Meanwhile, the government is also planning a high-level meeting at the Forest Headquarters in Thiruvananthapuram on Wednesday.

“The Supreme Court’s observation that the ESW could be modified in public interest offers hope. We are seeking legal opinion stressing on this point,” said the state’s Forest Minister A K Saseendran.

“The government is aware of the concerns of the people over the Supreme Court directive to fix one-km ESW. In fact, the government will offer all support to the people,” he added.

Saseendran also said the allegations by certain people that the state government and the Forest Department had plotted to ensure one-km ESW were baseless.

States can seek relaxation in one-km ECZ norm

The Supreme Court order directing the implementation of a minimum one-kilometre eco-sensitive zone around all wildlife sanctuaries and national parks will be relaxed to protect public interest.

The order has included the provision for relaxing the norm, based on the recommendations of the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) and the central high-powered committee (CEC).

The apex court order has specified that State governments seeking relaxation in the norm should approach the CEC and MoEF&CC.

The Supreme Court has ordered an ESZ of at least one-kilometre wide around wildlife sanctuaries and national parks. Even while passing the order, the court accepted the CEC and MoEF&CC's argument that it should not be uniformly implemented at all places.

The CEC made it clear that respective State governments should decide on the maximum width after considering the ecological issues.

The court has also specified that protected urban forests could be considered separately.

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