Eco-Sensitive Zone: Kerala to file review petition in SC on July 12

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Thiruvananthapuram: The Kerala Government has initiated the process to file a review petition against the recent Supreme Court directive on establishing a kilometre-wide Ecologically Sensitive Zone (ECZ) around all protected forest areas. It has been decided to file the petition on July 12.

The State department secretaries for Forest, and Law, and the Advocate general have been directed to go ahead with the process.

Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan is to hold an online meeting on June 30, 4 pm, to discuss and evaluate the measures taken by the Forests department regarding the proposed ESZ.

State Forests Minister A K Saseendran, Chief Secretary, Secretaries for the departments of Forests and Law, Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (Head of Forests Force) and the Advocate General are to participate in the meeting.

The Principal Secretary for the Forests has been directed to inform the Central Empowered Committee (CEC) under the Union Ministry of Forests and Environment, about Kerala’s stand on excluding all inhabited areas from the proposed ESZ.

The State Government went back on the earlier Cabinet decision (of 2019 October) to establish 1 km of ESZ around all protected forest areas, wildlife sanctuaries and national parks fearing protest by farmers. Following criticisms, the Government revised the recommendation submitted to the Centre in such a way that human settlements do not come under the ESZ limit.

The Government has already sent a letter to the Union Minister for Forests and Environment Minister Bhupendra Yadav seeking to limit ESZ by excluding inhabited areas and bringing legislation on the same. However, Saseendran has not received any response to the letter seeking time to meet Yadav.

Also, three evaluation and review meetings on the issue were held presided over by the Forest Minister and it has been decided to conduct a study in 23 protected forest areas. State Forests Minister A K Saseendran called on the Chief Minister.

The opposition termed the government move as its double standards as it was the First Pinarayi Vijayan Government (2016-21) that took the initial decision. Moreover, the government decided to review the recommendation only after the Supreme court directive on the ESZ three weeks ago.

What more needs to be done

Even as the government expedites the process of filing an appeal against the SC directive, the State should approach the Central Empowered Committee (CEC) requesting exclusion in ESZ.

An all-party delegation led by the Chief Minister must call on the Prime Minister, Union Minister for Forests and Environment, and the CEC to convince them that there is no need for an ESZ in the State as forests and wildlife are protected adequately.

A special assembly session must be convened and a resolution must be passed on the State’s stand on ESZ.

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