‘Green’ MLAs seek removal of expert

Conspiracy alleged behind Oommen panel.

Kochi/Thiruvananthapuram: Two Congress MLAs have hit out at the Oommen V. Oommen panel for recommending repeal of the Kerala Forest (Vesting and Management of Ecologically Fragile Lands) Act that allows the forest department to take over EFL from private owners.

AICC secretary V.D. Satheesan, MLA, alleged that there was a conspiracy behind the recommendation as it would help only land grabbers. Satheesan, one of the ‘green brigade’ MLAs in the party, demanded that Oommen be removed from the post of chairman of the Kerala State Bio-Diversity Board.

The advice featured in the three-member expert committee’s report on the Kasturirangan panel’s recommendation that farming operations and construction activities in 123 villages of the high ranges be regulated for protecting the bio-diversity of Western Ghats.

Supporting Satheesan, T.N. Prathapan, MLA, said that the Oommen panel’s recommendation was an affront on the Kerala Assembly which passed the law.

Meanwhile, Oommen said that the committee was only airing the views of the farmers. “There is a fear among farmers that areas that have been declared as ecologically sensitive will at a later stage be converted into Ecologically Fragile Land. They suspect that in future their land could be confiscated from them without even paying compensation,” he said.

Further, the expert committee had found that the lands of a number of small farmers were taken away from them in the name of the EFL Act without paying anything as compensation. “Many of them had come before us with their complaints,” he said. Even environment activists told us that the EFL Act had become obsolete and should be promptly scrapped,” Oommen added.

The actions of the forest officials have also helped to fan the fears of the farmers. “We came across a number of people who complained that officials had refused to accept tax on the grounds that the land has been declared ESA. Certain officials even stamped a red seal on the tax receipt,” he said.

( Source : dc )
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