SC gives fresh hopes to Kerala on sensitive Buffer Zone issue

Supreme Court of India. Photo: PTI

New Delhi: Giving fresh hopes to Kerala’s long-drawn battle in the sensitive Buffer zone issue, the Supreme Court on Thursday asked during the case hearing whether an amendment of its earlier order would allay the state’s concerns.

The effort of the State Government is to obtain an exemption in the restrictions in place on thickly populated regions of buffer zones. This follows an earlier court order to have a one-km Ecologically Sensitive Zone (ESZ) around protected forests and sanctuaries, including the 23 sanctuaries in Kerala.

However, a bench led by Justice B R Gavai made it clear that it wouldn’t allow mining activities within the one-km boundary, even if it brings about an amendment.

The state, through its lawyer, submitted that it failed to properly present the situation back home when the apex court considered the case earlier. It sought to grant exemption to 17 protected areas, for which final and draft notifications were issued, from the Buffer Zone verdict.

Forest comprises one-third of the state’s total area. Most areas around this are thickly populated and it’s impossible to rehabilitate the large number of human inhabitants, the state informed the court.

The court set aside the pleas moved by the State and the Central governments, seeking relaxations and an amendment to the earlier order, for pronouncing judgment.

The apex court yesterday made an oral observation that a complete ban on construction can’t be effected while determining the buffer zone. The reaction of the bench came when amicus curiae K Parameshwar pointed out that the earlier order in June mentioned the ban on new constructions in buffer zones. Justice Gavai observed that a complete construction ban is not practical, as the same would affect the job prospects of local people besides tourism. The court noted its earlier order was aimed at banning activities with serious consequences like mining.

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