Conversion of lands around Mangalavanam banned

Centre issues notification declaring 1-km-wide Eco Sensitive Zone around sanctuary

The forest, horticulture and agricultural areas, parks and open spaces earmarked for recreational purposes falling in the 1-km-wide Eco Sensitive Zone (ESZ) of Mangalavanam cannot be used as or converted into areas for commercial, residential, or industrial activities, with the Union Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change imposing these restrictions through a notification, which was published recently.

The Ministry notified an area varying from zero to 1 km around the boundary of the sanctuary as the ESZ, which would cover the holdings of Southern Railway, Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited, and the Greater Cochin Development Authority. The holdings of Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Limited, Cochin Port Trust, the sub-station of the Kerala State Electricity Board, Pandit Karuppan memorial, and Asmara, LMCC Convent, and other private lands too come under the ESZ of the sanctuary, which is located within the city, according to the notification.

However, the conversion of agricultural and other lands has been permitted to meet the residential needs of the local residents. The conversion shall be allowed for widening and strengthening the existing roads and construction of new roads, construction and renovation of infrastructure and civic amenities, non-polluting small-scale and cottage industries including village industries, the notification said.

Convenience stores and local amenities supporting eco-tourism, including home-stays can also be set up in the area, it said.

The notification empowers the State government to prepare a Zonal Master Plan (ZMP) within two years. The ZMP should provide for the restoration of denuded areas, conservation of existing water bodies, management of catchment areas, watershed and groundwater management. Soil and moisture conservation, needs of the local community and such other aspects of the ecology and environment that need attention should feature in the ZMP, it was suggested.

The Ministry suggested that all existing places of worship, villages and urban settlements, forests, agricultural areas, fertile land, green areas such as parks, horticultural areas, orchards, and waterbodies with supporting maps and giving details of the existing and proposed land use features be demarcated in the plan. The ZMP should be prepared in consultation with local people and the State government, the notification said.

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