Kerala State Remote Sensing and Environment Centre (KSREC), under the Finance and Planning Department, has been asked to use satellite images to identify human habitations, business and trading establishments, educational institutions, places of worship, hospitals, agricultural areas and plantations that fall within the proposed one-km ecologically sensitive zones (ESZs) around wildlife sanctuaries and national parks in Kerala.
Such a scientific exercise has been undertaken to strengthen Kerala's case before the Supreme Court for a special exemption from the ESZ requirement.
This was announced by forest minister A K Saseendran in the Assembly on Tuesday. "We will go to any extent to protect the interests of people who will be affected by the Supreme Court notification," the minister said.
He said the Kerala Government had already told the Centre to introduce necessary legislation to exempt human habitations from the ESZs. "We have also asked the Centre to consider Kerala's limited geographical area and high population density," Saseendran said.
Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan had on June 27 said that the government would file a review petition before the Supreme Court and would make efforts to convince the apex court of Kerala's peculiar situation. The Chief Minister had also said the government had already issued instructions to the advocate general to initiate the process of approaching the apex court.
The SC, on June 3, had issued a notification directing states to declare an extent of one kilometre as ESZ around protected areas.
The forest minister on Tuesday told the Assembly that the LDF government had in 2020 itself had asked the Centre to exempt areas with high population density and those that have government and quasi-government institutions within its fold. A proposal to this effect had been submitted to the Centre, he said.
He also said the proposal included recommendations about areas to be included and left out within the proposed ESZ in 14 wildlife sanctuaries, namely, Malabar, Idukki, Aralam, Kottiyoor, Shendurney, Thattekkad, Periyar, Wayanad, Silent Valley, Parambikulam, Neyyar, Peppara, Choolannur and Peechi.
He said the Ministry of Environment and Forests was following up on Kerala's proposals when the SC issued the notification on June 3.
The minister's elaboration sounded like a counter to what Opposition Leader V D Satheesan said earlier.
Satheesan had said that in 2019 the LDF Cabinet had taken a policy decision endorsing the one-km ESZ around protected areas. He said it was this that manifested as the SC notification.