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MoEF seeks details of ESA maps

 Letter reaches Additional Chief Secretary The Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) has written to the State government seeking a verification of the cadastral-level mapping carried out by government agencies to ascertain the extent of Ecologically Sensitive Areas (ESAs) in the State. A letter from the MoEF regional office in Bangalore, addressed to the Additional Chief Secretary, Department of Environment, sought ‘random sampling ground truthing’ of the ESA demarcated by the Government of Kerala by verifying at least 25 per cent of the 123 villages demarcated as ESA.


The letter signed by Amarnatha Shetty, Principal Chief Conservator of Forests, said a preliminary meeting has been scheduled in Thiruvananthapuram on June 5 or 6 to discuss the process of verification. Kerala State Biodiversity Board (KSBB) Chairman Oommen V. Oommen said the verification was likely to cover the exclusion of plantations, agricultural lands, and residential areas from the ESA. KSBB was expected to produce the land-use data and other inputs used to prepare the cadastral-level maps of ESAs, he said. The cadastral-level maps were prepared by the State government following a draft notification issued by the MoEF in March redefining the territorial extent of the ESAs in the 123 villages in the State identified by the K. Kasturirangan committee for conservation of the Western Ghats.


Protests The Kasturirangan committee had earmarked 13,108 sq km across 123 villages in the State as ESA. Following widespread protests and political turmoil, the State government, on the basis of a ground-level verification, had proposed that the ESA be limited to 9,994 sq km. Accordingly, the draft notification issued by the MoEF on March 10 released 3,115 sq km of human settlements and agricultural land from the ESAs. The KSBB later took up the preparation of the cadastral-level maps to mark the boundaries of the redefined ESAs. The colour-coded maps demarcating forests, residential areas, waterbodies, and rocks were scanned, electronically stitched, and uploaded on to the website of the KSBB.

 Hindu, Delhi, Wednesday 28th May 2014