Kerala: 20,000 families in forests to be relocated to safety

The financial package is Rs 10 lakh per eligible family.

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Now that it has become increasingly difficult to push back wild beasts rampaging through hum-an habitations, the Forest Department has decided to relocate 20,000 tribal and non-tribal families living in 400-odd settlements within the forests and protected areas across the state. The plan is modelled on a Rs 80-crore mass relocation project that is being implemented in Wayanad, under which 800 tribal and non-tribal families are being relocated. Forest minister K. Raju has already written to the Union minister for environment, forests and climate change Harsh Vardhan seeking Rs 100 crore as a first tranche for the relocation.

“The project had assumed urgency in the light of increasing man-animal conflicts,” Mr Raju said in the letter. The relocation strategy is not a state-imposed one, and is voluntary. “However, the forest department has received representation from most of the 700-odd forest settlements in the state,” said Mr K.J. Varughese, the chief wildlife warden. Further, such a plan requires the pre-informed consent of the grama sabhas within which the settlements fall. Once a grama sabha opts for relocation, the families involved will get a one-time financial package and nothing else.

It will be up to the settlers to find land for resettlement,” said a top forest department official. The financial package is Rs 10 lakh per eligible family. If a family has a married son or daughter, then the younger family is treated as another independent family. This way, certain families will get a compensation of Rs 30-40 lakh. The forest department's strategy is to keep animals that have a tendency to destroy agricultural lands like elephants, tigers, leopards, and wild boar within their natural habitats. It also attempts to relocate such animals back to the forest.

However, wild animal attacks have only increased. After the LDF government came to power 37 people were killed in wild animal attacks. Wild animal attacks were especially intense in areas like Malampuzha, Olavakkode, and Puthupariyaram in Palakkad district this year. In Palakkad alone, at this half way point of the 2017-18 fiscal, the state government had shelled out nearly '8 lakh as compensation during for crop loss as a result of wild attack.

( Source : Deccan Chronicle. )
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