Thiruvananthapuram, March 4: The union environment ministry Tuesday accepted the Kerala government-appointed expert committee’s recommendation to keep agricultural land, plantations and habitations out of ecologically sensitive areas identified by a high-level working group on Western Ghats but the Left opposition and the protesters demanded a notification.
Late Tuesday night, an office memorandum from the ministry said the recommendations of the state government were examined and it has been decided to accept them.
Speaking to reporters close to midnight, after an emergency meeting with his party colleagues and senior ministers, Chief Minister Oommen Chandy said that he is pleased that the ministry has accepted the expert committee report on this issue.
“The ministry release clearly indicates that the notification will come out. The only question now is on the date of issue of the notification and all those who thought could use this for political gains will feel sorry as I am confident that the notification will be out in a day or two,” he said.
The Left and protesters however demanded that they will not accept an office memorandum but want a draft notification.
Speaking to reporters, Communist Party of India-Marxist politburo member Kodiyeri Balakrishnan said the office memorandum is just an eyewash and meant to take people for a ride as the Lok Sabha elections are round the corner.
“The need of the hour is the government should come out with a notification withdrawing their November office memorandum and nothing less than that is acceptable. Chandy has to resign as he has failed to protect the interests of the farmers,” he said.
The union environment and forests ministry in November last year came out with an order which had five conditions applicable to 123 villages in the state – prohibiting mining, setting up of thermal plants and also restricts construction of buildings to less than 20,000 square metres.
The ministry had clamped the ban on the basis of the Kasturirangan panel report on the Western Ghats Nov 16.
The 123 villages are mostly in the hilly districts of Idukki, Wayanad and Kozhikode and in all these districts, people are up in arms since then.
” We do not accept this,we will not settle anything less than a complete withdrawal of the November notification. We will not sit idle as the elections are round the corner,” said angry supporters of the High Range Protection Council in Idukki districts who took to the streets in the night after hearing of the latest news.
Adding trouble for the Chandy government which has just a three seat majority in the 140 member Kerala assembly, is their third biggest ally – Kerala Congress-Mani, with nine legislators, which has always been aligned with the farmers in these three districts.