KCBC delegation met the Chief Minister on buffer zone issue: Assured of review

KCBC delegation met the Chief Minister on buffer zone issue: Assured of review

Thiruvananthapuram: KCBC representatives met Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan yesterday, demanding a review of the one-kilometer buffer zone around the protected forest boundary. The delegation demanded that the government should take immediate action on the issue, which affects all sections of the population.

KCBC Vice President His Excellency Rev.Dr. Varghese Chakkalakal, Thalassery Archbishop Mar Joseph Pamplany, Pathanamthitta Bishop Samuel Mar Irenios, Kanjirapally Bishop Mar Jose Pulikkan, Changanassery Auxiliary Bishop Mar Thomas Tharayil, KCBC Deputy Secretary Father Jacob G Palaykappilly, KCBC JPD Commission secretary and KSSF Director Father Jacob Mavunkal, Minister of Irrigation Roshy Augustine and others participated in the discussion with the Chief Minister. Subsequently, a petition was submitted to the Chief Minister.

The delegation stated that the Chief Minister listened to them sympathetically and made it clear that he is studying the matter seriously. The issue was also discussed in the Assembly. After the meeting, the delegation said that the Chief Minister had assured that both the Opposition and the ruling party would take up the matter seriously and file a review petition in the Supreme Court.

The delegation also demanded that even before filing a review petition against the Supreme Court judgment, the Assembly should use the power of the State Government to pass a resolution to fix the buffer zone at zero kilometers under special circumstances in Kerala. They asked the Chief Minister to completely eliminate the situation where lakhs of people may become homeless due to unannounced evictions.

The Supreme Court decision of June 3, 2022 to enforce one-kilometer eco-sensitive zone or buffer zone around wildlife sanctuaries and national parks is an issue that affects the common people of Kerala, beyond politics and religion.

The buffer zone is a place where it is forbidden to cultivate anything other than one's own needs, even to build a house for one's own use. This has created a situation where millions of people inside the zone have to flee their native land as victims of unannounced migration. KCBC observed that this situation is extremely serious and should be avoided altogether.

Following are the proposals submitted by the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Kerala to the State Government:
1. File a review petition against the Supreme Court decision. Prior to filing the review petition, the buffer zone should be shifted within one kilometer from the boundary of the protected forest using the powers vested in it by the Government of Kerala.
2. As was done in the case of Mullaperiyar, a special assembly session may be convened on this issue to pass a resolution that the buffer zone should be fixed at zero km in special circumstances in Kerala.
3. An all-party delegation led by the Chief Minister may meet the Union Minister to convince the Center and the CEC of the special situation in Kerala.
4. At the meeting, it may be conveyed that the situation in Kerala is different and that the wildlife sanctuaries in Kerala should not be evaluated on the basis of the activities taking place in Rajasthan, Goa and within and near the wildlife sanctuaries, and that buffer zone , which acts as a shock observer around the wildlife sanctuaries is not a necessity in Kerala, which is a model for wildlife conservation in India.
5. Cancel the 29/2019 Forest Order that the buffer zone can be up to one kilometer.
6. According to the Supreme Court judgment, while taking count of the number of existing buildings within a kilometer of the buffer zone, subdivide the total number of people, houses, businesses and area of land within the T zone, submit a detailed report to the Center, proving that the buffer zone is not practical in the rapidly urbanizing state of Kerala. For this, a joint team of Revenue, Agriculture, Forest and Panchayat Departments should be formed immediately.
7. Kerala is one of the best protected states in India for its forests and wildlife. 29.65% of the total area of Kerala is protected forest.

According to the India State of Forest Report 2021, the tree cover in Kerala is 59.79%. (National average is only 36.18). Kerala, which covers only 1.2 per cent of India's total area, is home to 4 per cent (24 per cent) of India's wildlife sanctuaries and national parks.

All these point to the fact that despite the difficult situation, Kerala is one of the best states in terms of forest and wildlife conservation and the imposition of monolithic forest laws on the revenue land of Kerala, which is based solely on the situation in the northern states, is a violation of common law, KCBC said.

The KCBC delegation made it clear that there would still be strong interventions on the buffer zone issue.

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