Kerala: LDF Accuse Protesting UDF of Double Standards on Buffer Zone Issue, Claims Reducing Zone Limit
Representational Image. Image Courtesy: PTI
Thiruvananthapuram: The Supreme Court (SC) verdict on June 3, 2022, mandating an Eco-Sensitive Zone (ESZ) around the Protected Areas (PA) has sparked protests in Kerala. The fear among the public of losing residential and agricultural lands drove the protests.
But, the United Democratic Front (UDF) alliance and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) accused the Left Democratic Front (LDF) Government of betraying the interest of those living close to the national parks and wildlife sanctuaries.
The UDF went on to accuse the cabinet decision made by the LDF government in October 2019 of being impactful on the state and is campaigning continuously against the decision.
While the LDF government is pushing for exemption from the buffer zone, the UDF during its tenure in 2013 had recommended a 12 km buffer zone, against the 10 km recommended by the guidelines of the Union Government.
Meanwhile, the LDF Government is set to publish the third map on December 28 of the buffer zone with survey numbers for the public to register their concerns.
ALLEGATIONS AGAINST LDF
Several villages in Idukki, Wayanad, Malappuram and Palakkad districts fall under the one km buffer zone, which the state government intends to provide an exemption. The UDF called for a hartal in high-range districts including Wayanad, Idukki and parts of Malappuram on June 16 following the SC judgement on the buffer zone.
The hartal was announced by the UDF after the LDF government filed the review petition in the SC on June 12. Another hartal was announced in Idukki on November 28.
Earlier on November 24, the UDF held a protest in Nedumkandam in the Idukki district, the UDF convenor M M Hasan said, “The UDF’s is that there should be no buffer zone at sanctuaries and national parks. If the government fails to solve land-related issues, the UDF will take out a secretariat march,” The Hindu reported.
The Leader of the Opposition (LoP) in the assembly V D Satheesan accused the LDF government of irresponsibility in handling the buffer zone issue. The churches including the Latin Catholic diocese in Palakkad and independent farmers associations also accused the LDF government.
‘NARROW POLITICAL AGENDA’
While the UDF is accusing the LDF government of the prevailing confusion and concerns, the LDF has pointed to the decisions of the previous UDF regime in the state.
A cabinet meeting of the Oommen Chandy ministry had approved the recommendation of the sub-committee to impose 12 km ESZ against the 10 km prescribed by the union government.
In fact, the present LoP Satheesan was part of the subcommittees which recommended a 12 km buffer zone. “Sub-committees with VD Satheesan, TN Prathapan and N Shamsuddin as members have decided on the 12 km limit after several sittings. People know what the protesting LoP said earlier,” Pinarayi Vijayan, the Chief Minister told the assembly in the recent session.
P Rajeev, the minister for industries and law accused both the Congress and BJP of pursuing a narrow political agenda. “These are spreading false information among the public for political gains,” he wrote in Deshabhimani, a Malayalam daily.
“The Congress which approved the buffer zone guidelines as the recommendations of the environment ministry of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government, is now shedding crocodile tears,” he said.
The LDF government has been calling for a zero buffer zone in residential areas and agricultural lands, while a cap of a one km buffer zone is recommended for uninhibited areas.
The chief minister categorically stated that there would be no loss of land due to the introduction of the ESZ. “The inhibited regions and agricultural lands around the protected areas must be excluded. We have made this stand clear already,” he said while addressing a press conference.
MAPS TO BE SUBMITTED TO SC AND CEC
The government has so far released two maps including the satellite survey for public opinion. The revenue and local bodies are instructed to carry out field visits to ensure the exclusion of residential and agricultural areas.
The government has proposed to submit the finalised map to the SC and the Central Empowered Committee (CEC) for reiterating its demand on exempting residential and agricultural areas.
Another report stated that the government plans to buy more time in the SC to submit the final map of the buffer zone, excluding residential and agricultural areas closer to the PAs, quoting the June 3rd judgement of the SC.
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