Monday, September 5, 2011

News Article: Kerala: Crackdown on reclamation of fields

The Hindu
1st April 2011

 Chief Secretary asks District Collectors to act against violations

Reclamation of wetlands rampant
Directive to act against illegal sand-mining

Thiruvananthapuram: Chief Secretary P. Prabhakaran has directed District Collectors to initiate action to check the recent spurt in reclamation of wetlands and paddy fields, destruction of mangroves and other violations of environmental regulations like illegal sand-mining and extraction of soil.

An official order issued to Collectors, Mr. Prabhakaran said there had been an increase in the number of such violations, especially the Kerala Paddy and Wetland (Conservation) Act 2008 and the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) notification 2011. The communication said several instances of reclamation of wetlands and paddy fields and clearing of coastal vegetation, especially mangroves, had been reported by civil society organisations.

“There have also been a number of instances of illegal sand-mining and quarrying and large scale removal of soil from paddy fields and other areas. Hillocks are being excavated and soil transported to fill up wetlands and other low lying areas, disrupting the hydrology of the area with its long-term impact on the livelihood of a large number of people,” the order said.

Pointing to the likelihood of a surge in such offences during the transition of power when several staff were busy with election-related work, the communication directed Collectors to be extremely vigilant and take timely action. It called for particular attention to be paid to public land and common property vulnerable to encroachment and destruction.

Mr. Prabhakaran quoted a Supreme Court order prohibiting the regularisation of puramboke land that had been encroached upon and directing State governments to evict illegal occupants. He urged Collectors to ensure timely action to prevent violations and to book offenders, invoking the provisions of various rules and regulations.

The Collectors had also been asked to instruct secretaries of local bodies to take appropriate action in such cases and inform the field officers about suspected violations. Welcoming the Chief Secretary's initiative, R. Sridhar, an activist with Thanal, a city-based environmental organisation, hoped it would help to curb the recent spurt in violation of environmental laws capitalising on the situation when the administration was busy with election-related activities. The Kerala State Biodiversity Board has also directed the district administration in Thiruvananthapuram, Kollam, Ernakulam, Malappuram and Thrissur to initiate action against violation of environmental regulations.

Chairman of the board R.V. Varma said environmental laws and CRZ norms were being flouted all over the State, at a time when the government machinery was engaged in election work.

He called upon the public to inform the respective Collector, the Kerala State Council for Science, Technology and Environment or the Biodiversity Board about such violations.

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