Centre objects to ghat fragmentation

MoEF seeks clarification on 119 village maps

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The state’s latest set of ESA maps too have run into trouble. The Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) seems to have taken exception to the state’s move to classify only forests as ecologically sensitive areas (ESAs).

The MoEF has reportedly told state officials that the maps have “seriously fragmented” the greenery of Western Ghats.

Union environment minister Prakash Javadekar has sought a “clarification” from the state on the cadastral maps of 119 villages presented on July 31.

“They seem to have some issues with contiguity,” said Biodiversity chairman Oommen V Oommen, who led the committee that prepared the maps.

“The MoEF had expressed the concern that the contiguity of green patches might be fragmented in some parts,” he said.

Sources said that the MoEF might seek, as reference, another set of maps prepared by the State Forest Department.

The Department maps, when seen together, possess the “contiguity of green” sought by the MoEF.

While the Oommen V Oommen Committee took out agricultural land, built-up land including towns and houses from areas declared as ESA by the High-Level Working Group headed by K Kasturirangan, the Forest Department maps show all these areas as reserve forest; Cardamom Hill Reserve too has been shown as ESA.

Even former environment minister Jairam Ramesh had favoured the Forest Department maps.

These maps have included ecologically fragile land, encroachments and areas caught in legal disputes.

Though encroachments prior to 1977 had been regularized, encroachments had taken place after 1977. These, too, have been notified as reserve forests in the maps.

Further, Kerala Private Forests Vesting and Assignment Act, 1971, which sought to convert private forests except agricultural lands within these into natural forests, had resulted in encroachments and legal disputes. These lands too have been notified as ESA in the Forest Department maps.

( Source : deccan chronicle )
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