Mangaluru, Nov 30, 2014: A wide cross section of elected representatives, public organisations, farmers and even local environmentalists opposed implementing the recommendations of the K. Kasturirangan report on the conservation of the Western Ghats during public discussions held at Mangaluru and Udupi on November 29, Saturday.
The Forest Department, verified facts in about 120 villages in Udupi district and 45 villages in Dakshina Kannada and opine the are eligible to be classified as ‘eco-sensitive areas’ (that is, with more than 20 per cent of the land being “natural landscape”). While two members of the committee, which held meetings in the twin districts, will have to give their report before Tuesday, the State government will have to send their opinion to the Union government by December 15. Farmers objected to the lack of field visits and the consultation of villagers in drawing up the forest areas in villages.
“The Kasturirangan committee had relied only on satellite imagery to decide the eco-sensitive zones. The areas marked as forests now have human habitations and plantations,” said Nere Krishna Shetty from Hebri. Similarly, objections were raised over drawing up the eco-sensitive areas using the 2001 census report, instead of the 2011 census which shows “more human” inhabitation in the “forest” areas.
Malnad Janahitha Rakshana Vedike, which staged a walk-out in protest in Mangaluru, said the report must be discussed at gram sabhas before its implementation. K. Yadava Shetty, district secretary of Karnataka Pranta Raitha Sangha, said the report was “bureaucratically implemented” instead of “democratically”.
Roy Joseph from Pudubettu in Belthangady expressed concern that the report’s implementation would lead to stalling of “development”. “Farmers will be forced to leave their land,” he said.
Replying to queries, B.K. Dikshit, member of the State-level committee on implementation of the report, said that he would suggest a two-month observation, after the submission of the report, to allow objections. “Common issues raised pertain to misinformation and misinterpretation of the report. We will suggest disbursement of the report in the local languages to the villages,” he said.