Thiruvananthapuram | In a controversial decision,Kerala Government today said it cannot treat cardamom plantations, situated in the thick rain forests in Kerala, as forest land and instead it can be considered as revenue land.
The decision in this regard was taken at a high-level meeting convened by Chief Minister Oommen Chandy to finalise the areas to be excluded from the ecologically sensitive areas (ESA)s identified by the K Kasturirangan committee for conservation of Western Ghats.
Thousands of cardamom plantations are situated in ecologically fragile areas of the Western Ghats and there are allegations that over course of time, cultivators have been trying to establish their ownership of such fragile areas.
Cardamom plantations cannot be treated as forest land and separate survey numbers will be given to treat it as revenue land. The forest department will have the ownership only of the trees. Plantations will not come under ESA, Chandy later told reporters.
He said government also decided to provide survey numbers of ESAs to the Union government.
Two days ago the cabinet had decided not to give the survey numbers to the Centre.
The government also decided to appoint panchayat level committees, comprising of six officials, including forest and Agricultural officer which will look into ESA area, in each village and collect details by July 23 and 24.
Government will submit all the details to the Centre by July 29.
A video conference meeting will be held with Collectors concerned before finalising the report, Chandy said.
Environmentalists fear that this decision will further dilute the already watered down Kasturirangal panel report and adversely affect the ‘shrinking and biodiversity’ areas of the state.
Meanwhile the Highrange Protection Council today decided to withdraw their dawn to dusk hartal in Idukki district on Monday in protest against the reported decision to include large tracts of inhabited area and agriculture land on the list of ESAs.
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