The rally jointly organised by all the political parties, to oppose the Kasturirangan Committee report (K Report) at Madikeri on 2-1-2015 was indeed a success if we go by the numerical strength it attracted.
The leaders who spoke there got thunderous applause from the gathering. Most of the people who gathered at the rally were made to believe that the K Report applies to entire Kodagu, and if its recommendations are implemented they would be thrown out of their lands, they do not get loans for developing their lands, they cannot use chemical fertilizers, they can not regulate the shade in the coffee plantations, they can not construct dwelling houses etc.; The leaders did not reveal the fact that the K report considered only 40 revenue villages as ESAs’, out of 286, in the district. (K. Report considered 55 villages of the district, as ecologically sensitive Areas – (ESA) – out of which 15 are forest villages}.
The K Report might have suggested many things in its recommendations, but what exactly matters to us is the contents of the draft notification issued by the central Govt on 10-3-2014, on this issue. Now what is relevent is the items in the notifications, other recommendations in the K Report becomes irrelevant. So we have to see the contents of notification and act accordingly. Unfortunately our leaders who are opposing the K Report never said anything about the contents of the draft notifications. The first para of the notification date 10-3-2014 runs as follows – “…..for the information of the public likely to be affected thereby; and notice is hereby given that the said draft notification shall be taken into consideration on or after the expiry of a period of 60 days from the notifications are made available to the public. Any person interested in making any objections or suggestions on the proposals contained in the draft notification may forward the same in writing for consideration of the central Govt. within the period so specified”, (i.e. 60 days)
As per this notification the following projects and activities are to be prohibited or regulated in Eco Sensitive Areas (ESAs’) :
Banned – Prohibited
1) Mining quarrying and sand mining. All existing mines shall be phased out within 5 years from the date of issue of the final notification or on expiry of the existing mining lease, whichever is earlier.
2) Thermal power plants.
3) All New red category of industries as specified by the central or state pollution control Board.
4) All New and expansion project of building and construction with built up area of 20000 Sq. Mts and above and all new and expansion townships and area devt., projects with an area of 50 Hects. or with built up area of 150000 Sq. mts and above..
1) New Hydro power projects:
2) Orange Category of industries as specified by the central or state pollution central Board, (Coffee curing is in this category) shall be allowed with strict compliance of environmental regulations but all efforts shall be made to promote industries with low environmental impacts.
3) In case of activities that are covered in the schedule to the Environment Impact Assessment notification No.1533(E) dt., 14-9-2006, published by the Ministry of environment and Forests and are falling in the ESA, except the projects and activities which are specifically prohibited under sub-para (1) shall be scrutinised and assessed for cumulative impacts and development needs before considering for prior environmental clearance by the Ministry under the provisions of the said notification.
4) Diversion of forest land for non forestry purposes in the ESA.
5) The requirement of prior informed consent under scheduled Tribes and other forest dwellers Act 2006 shall be complied with and the consent of Grama Sabha for undertaking projects and activities shall be mandatory.
The central Govt had given an opportunity of 60 days for filing objections/suggestions. Some would like to ask the Dist. Presidents of the 3 major political parties, who have arranged the rally, as to whether they have responded to the notification dt., 10-3-2014. If they have sent their objections and suggestions that should be made public. If they have not, then it is a lapse on their part & one has to presume that the rally held on 2nd Jan was only a cover up act for their failures. It is pertinent to mention here that the communist party of India [CPI (M)] Kodagu has sent its objections on 5-4-2014. Should we not ask the other political parties as to why they failed to do that? This may be due to the fact that there is no unanimity among the leaders. Some say that the K Report should be rejected in toto. Some are of the opinion that only the Govt. forest area should be declared as ESA and all the revenue villages should be excluded from the list of ESAs’. Some others say that a survey should be conducted by the Govt., by involving the local people, whose interests are at stake. Some say that the officers should keep quiet and they should simply implement the recommendations of the locals.
Over all it appears that the issue is blown out of proportion by the 3 major political parties. Instead of enlightening the people as to what exactly the K Report states, what is the action taken by the Central and State Govts (Infact Karnataka Govt. has communicated its opinion on 36 items of the K Report to the Central Govt vide its letter dt. (5-5-2014) and what did the Supreme Court say on this issue (this issue is also pending before the S.C.) the leaders have left the people in a confused state.
For argument sake let us agree with these leaders that some of the recommendations of the K Report is harmful to the people of Kodagu District., But should they not brief and guide us as to which are the harmful items in the report and in the notification? Is it not their duty to see that the people are not misguided, and guided correctly?. Finally I would like to mention here that the present Central Govt. has given an affidavit to the Supreme Court on 19-9-2014 stating that it has accepted the K Report and the court has said that it is the duty of the central Govt. to protect the environment, and it shall not allow irreversible alteration of the area in question by granting environment clearance or permitting activities which would have an adverse impact on the ESAs’. However the Central Govt. is at liberty to issue a fresh notification after examining all aspects regarding the ESAs’.