Declaration of a buffer or eco-sensitive zone (ESZ) around protected forests and sanctuaries would not result in displacement of people living there nor would it affect agriculture and horticulture practices, the Centre has said.
The Centre has also said that activities undertaken in ESZs are generally regulated and only those like commercial mining, stone quarrying and crushing units are prohibited.
The stand of the Centre, which has been informed by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change to Congress MP from Kerala K Muraleedharan, could allay apprehensions of those living close to protected forests and are in fear of losing their homes and livelihood if their lands come in the buffer zones.
Minister of State for Environment, Forest and Climate Change Ashwini Kumar Choubey informed Muraleedharan that ESZs are notified by the Centre based on proposals submitted by respective state governments.
"Declaration of an ESZ around protected areas does not involve displacement or evacuation of the local population and does not impact their vocation in any way," Choubey said.
"Activities undertaken within an ESZ are in general regulated except in case of few specific activities which are prohibited such as commercial mining, stone quarrying and crushing units," he said.
He also said that there are no prohibitions regarding ongoing agriculture and horticulture practices, including dairy farming, aquaculture and fisheries within an ESZ.
"In addition, activities related to infrastructure, including civic amenities are only regulatory in nature," the minister said.
Choubey further said that issues raised by Muraleedharan, under rule 377 process in Lok Sabha, have been duly noted and the state government has been requested to take due cognisance of the same, examine the issue raised and "take necessary action to demarcate the buffer zone around the protected areas".
Muraleedharan had raised the issue of the preliminary satellite survey report prepared by the Kerala State Remote Sensing and Environment Centre to ascertain the buffer zones around protected areas.
The Kerala government had published the Eco-Sensitive Zone maps and buffer zone report in its official website in December last year.
ESZs, demarcated near 22 protected forests, including sanctuaries and national parks in the state, could be seen in these maps shown on the website.
An official source had said that the report, published along with the map, was a preliminary one based on the satellite images of establishments, houses and other constructions and various activities which fall within the one km radius of protected forests in the southern state.
The buffer zone report, prepared during 2020-21, was already sent to the Centre, the source had said.
Chief Minister Vijayan has on several occasions categorically made it clear that no action would be taken that would adversely impact the life and livelihood of people living near the protected forests.
The stand of the state government is to exclude the inhabited areas from the buffer zone limit and it would go to any extent to protect the interests of local residents and farmers in this regard, Vijayan had said earlier.
In June last year, the Supreme Court had directed that a buffer zone of 1 km be maintained around forests and sanctuaries across the country. Challenging this, both the Centre and the Kerala government had filed review pleas in the apex court.