A multi-party meeting led by Chief Minister Oommen Chandy here on Monday decided to place before the Centre the State’s strong reservations about the decision to implement the K. Kasturirangan committee report on the Western Ghats.
Though Mr. Chandy had called an all-party meeting, the Left Democratic Front (LDF) boycotted it.
The committee has recommended prohibition of certain types of development activities in 60,000 sq km of ecologically sensitive areas spread over Gujarat, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Goa, Kerala and Tamil Nadu.
After the meeting, Mr. Chandy told a press conference that the consensus at the meeting was against the “impracticable” suggestions in the report, because 33.72 per cent of the State’s geographical area, comprising villages, would come under the restrictions recommended by the high-level working group led by Dr. Kasturirangan.
He said 123 villages across the Western Ghats stretch in the State, some of them as big in area as taluks in other parts of the State, would fall under the proposed restrictions.
He said the Centre’s draft notification based on the panel’s report would be published in two or three days and the State government would immediately have the details translated and made public in the affected villages for gathering the views of the people.
“We are sincerely of the view that conservation is important. At the same time, it should be without affecting the lives of the people,” Mr. Chandy said.
He said the Madhav Gadgil report had proposed stronger restrictions on development activities than the Kasturirangan report that modified it. Although the Kasturirangan report had removed several concerns of the ordinary farmers of the Western Ghats areas of the State, it still had several impractical suggestions in it by including in the red category industries such as mining and quarrying and even dairy units.
Mr. Chandy said the State government would call meetings with people’s representatives and farmers in all the affected villages and form an expert panel immediately to draft Kerala’s objections to the panel recommendations, incorporating the people’s apprehensions.
He said it was unfortunate that the LDF constituents kept away from the meeting, though they had perceived the issue to be serious enough to give their views on the panel report in writing. Leaders of all parties belonging to the United Democratic Front and the Bharatiya Janata Party attended the meeting.