Thiruvananthapuram: Amidst mounting pressure from the opposition parties and the local people in high range areas, the Left government in Kerala on Tuesday announced that it was ready to "re-examine" a cabinet decision taken by it two years ago demarcating 0-1 km surrounding the protected forest areas as Eco Sensitive Zone (ESZ) in the state.
Forest minister A K Saseendran informed the state Assembly that they were ready for a re-look into the decision taken on October 23, 2019, which had been used as a political weapon by the opposition Congress-UDF to target the LDF government over the buffer zone issue.
He was replying to a question during the Question Hour as to whether the government would be ready to re-examine the cabinet decision, taken during the time of the previous Pinarayi Vijayan government.
Raising the question, opposition MLA Sajeev Joseph expressed concern over whether the earlier cabinet decision would adversely impact the review petition being filed by the state in the Supreme Court against its recent order on ESZs and the state's plea before the Centre's empowered committee in this connection.
The top court had, on June 3, pronounced the verdict to create a one-km eco-sensitive zone (ESZ) around all wildlife sanctuaries and national parks, which is generally considered to affect normal life of people living in the high range areas of the southern State for decades. "A decision has been taken to look into the possibilities of re-examining the cabinet decision," Saseendraan said adding that he had already made this clear when the Leader of opposition (LoP) V D Satheesan had raised the matter during the discussion of the passing of a resolution on the buffer zone issue last week.
The minister said anything related to the state cabinet decision is a matter which should be done by the state government and so he told the LoP that there was no need to mention that particular issue in the resolution presented in the House seeking the Centre's intervention in exempting inhabited places and agricultural lands while implementing the recent apex court verdict on ESZ.
On another question, Saseendran also said the government did not take any decision to convene a meeting of the people's representatives to discuss the buffer zone issue as the Assembly has already discussed the matter in detail. The Opposition UDF had been accusing the Pinarayi Vijayan government of being responsible for the recent Supreme Court verdict on buffer zones which has triggered intense protests in high ranges of the State.
They alleged that the LDF government's decision in 2019 to demarcate 0-1 km surrounding the protected forest areas as buffer zone had led to the present apex court verdict, a charge which was rejected by the government earlier.
The Kerala Legislative Assembly on Thursday unanimously passed a resolution requesting the Centre to exempt inhabited places and agricultural lands in the state while implementing the one km wide eco-sensitive zone (ESZ) around forests and sanctuaries as directed by the Supreme Court.