Thiruvananthapuram: The Kerala Government has set up an expert committee chaired by Justice Thottathil B Radhakrishnan to assess at first hand the Eco-Sensitive Zones (ESZs) or buffer zones in Kerala. The committee also comprises the additional chief secretaries of the Environment and Local-Self Government departments, the principal secretary of the Forest department, and former chief of the Forest department James Varghese.
The five-member committee will study the ESZs as part of the direct survey by Kerala. An interim report by the committee is to be filed within a month and the final report has to be submitted within three months. The Chief Secretary has been directed to collate the Committee’s study. Buildings, institutions, other constructions, and land utilisation in the buffer zones would be examined in the direct survey. A high-level meeting chaired by Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan last month had decided to submit a report to the Supreme Court after a direct study of the buffer zones, besides the satellite survey by the Kerala State Remote Sensing and Environment Centre (KSREC).
The first-hand survey has been necessitated as inhabited areas could not be clearly identified in the satellite survey. The final report from the Committee would be submitted to the Supreme Court only after considering the direct survey report on the ESZs by the Expert Committee. Kerala plans to use the Expert Committee report to convince the Court about the practical difficulties in implementing its directive on creating buffer zone.
The state has filed a review petition in the apex court on the matter. In June the Supreme Court ordered that every protected forest, national park and wildlife sanctuary in India should have a mandatory ESZ of a minimum 1 km starting from their demarcated boundaries.
A four-member technical expert committee has also been formed to provide the committee with all the technical support. Additional Principal Chief Forest Conservator (Vigilance and Forest Intelligence) Pramod G Krishnan, geoscientist Dr Richard Scaria, State biodiversity board member Dr A V Santhosh Kumar and Kerala Institute of Local Administration (KILA) director Dr Joy Elamon are the technical committee experts.