Kottayam: A large group of residents of Angel Valley village in Kerala’s Kottayam district on Friday pulled out a forest department poster and daubed it with black paint in front of the nearby forest district office a day after the LDF government released the eco plan. sensitive zone (ESZ) maps and buffer zone report on its official website.
The scene was similar to the anti-SilverLine protests seen several months earlier when people removed concrete boulders from their properties and threw them away.
In Angel Valley, local residents have told television stations that the state government gave them land decades ago and after building a lifestyle there, it was putting everything at risk by being shown as a forest area on ESZ maps.
Several women and men leading the protest said, “We have nothing to lose now. We will not hesitate to die or be killed on our land.”
After the sign showing the way to the Pamplona Forest District Office was taken out, hundreds of citizens went to the forest office singing the slogans that they will not give up their land to anyone.
In the office, the signal post was thrown to the ground and smeared with black paint.
Residents of the area said that decades ago the state government gave their parents and grandparents land in Angel Valley and through hard work, they built houses and created their own livelihood.
“Now, they are saying that we are living inside the forest area. How is that? Several thousand families live here. We cannot leave this place now,” they said.
“They are making a fool of us. They said we can send objections. They sent hundreds of petitions to the government stating their objections. But now they have published this map saying it is a forest area,” another resident of the area told the media. .
According to the government website, these were ESZ maps of various protected areas in the state sent to the Center by the Forest and Wildlife Department.
The ESZs, which are demarcated near 22 protected forests including state sanctuaries and national parks, can be seen on these maps on the website.
ESZs, residential areas and other constructions were marked with different shades and people can submit their complaints to the concerned authorities after checking the maps of the respective areas and the buffer zone report.
According to official sources, the report, published along with the map, is a preliminary one based on satellite images of establishments, houses and other structures within a kilometer radius of the southern state’s protected forests.
The report of the buffer zone worked out for the period 2020-21 has already been sent to the Centre.
To allay people’s fears, State Forest Minister AK Saseendran on Thursday said that the Left government’s firm stand is to keep residential areas out of ESZs.
The field survey of the respective regions would be conducted in a time-bound manner, state Revenue Minister K Rajan said.
In June, the Supreme Court ordered the maintenance of a one kilometer buffer zone around forests and sanctuaries across the country. Challenging this, both the Center and the Kerala government filed review petitions in the apex court.