Kerala panel on western ghats make pro-farmer suggestions

Western ghatA panel headed by Dr Oommen V Oommen, chairman of Kerala Biodiversity Board, was asked to study the Madhav Gadgil and Kasturirangan reports on Western Ghats in the wake of protest from public. PTI

A Kerala government-appointed panel to study the Kasturirangan report on Western Ghats has made many pro-farmer recommendations which include exclusion of inhabited regions and plantations from the purview of the ecologically sensitive areas, which Kasturigan had included in 123 villages.

A panel headed by Dr Oommen V Oommen, chairman of Kerala Biodiversity Board, was asked to study the Madhav Gadgil and Kasturirangan reports on Western Ghats in the wake of protest from public.

The Oommen committee, which submitted the report to the chief minister on Friday, said the Kerala (Vesting and Management of Ecologically Fragile) Land Act 2003 has lost its relevance. Hence, that act should be expunged in a manner curbing the vesting of private land. It said quarrying in forest areas should be banned immediately.

The panel, which held sittings in several places in the Western Ghats, said the government should immediately issue order allaying the fears of the farmers that the steps for conserving the Western Ghats should not hamper cultivating rubber, coffee and other cash crops.

The state-level committee said a field survey should be held in places which Madhav Gadgil has identified as ecologically sensitive zones and Kasturirangan has identified as sensitive areas to demarcate forest from human settlements. After examining the population density, human settlements should be exempted from the category of ecologically sensitive areas.

It said farmers should not be prevented from rearing hybrid varieties of milking animals and the grace period to shift to organic farming should be extended to 10 years from five years. The report said the forest areas should be fenced to prevent the animals straying into farms, a cause of concern for farmers.

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