Chandy to breathe easy, forest ministry accepts directions

Chandy to breathe easy, forest ministry accepts directions
Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy can breathe easy as a notification issued by the centre has accepted the state's recommendation to keep agricultural land, plantations and habitations of 123 villages out of ecologically sensitive areas.

The ecologically sensitive areas were identified by a high-level working group on the Western Ghats.

Chandy, addressing reporters here, said that the ministry of environment and forests has accepted a report by the state government appointed experts committee and decided to leave 3,115 sq km out of what was earlier identified as ecologically sensitive areas in the 123 villages. The report came out in November 2013.

"With this, the total area in Kerala which would come under the Western Ghats, has come down from 13,108 sq km to 9,993 sq km. This would include 9,107 sq km of forests and 886 sq km of rocky areas and meadows, where there is no human habitation," said Chandy.

The Kerala Congress (Mani), the third largest ally of the Chandy-led United Democratic Front government with nine legislators, has been up in arms since November, as earlier issued office memorandum by the ministry of environment and forests appeared to have adverse effect on villages in Idukki and Wayanad districts.

A section in the Kerala Congress (Mani) has been threatening to pull out of the government if a suitable direction does not come annulling the November order of the ministry.

Things got tougher when the Lok Sabha poll notification came last week and Chandy came under pressure, with the ministry of forests Monday approaching the Election Commission for permission to issue the new direction. The permission came Monday night.

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