Cong observes hartal in Pathanamthitta against SC order on protected forests

Pathanamthitta (Ker), Jun 7 (PTI) Shops remained closed and vehicles kept off the road in seven highrange panchayats in this district on Tuesday as the opposition Congress observed a day-long hartal protesting the Supreme court direction regarding eco-sensitive zone (ESZ) near protected forests and the Kerala government's alleged silence over that.

The apex court recently issued a direction that each protected forest, including national parks and wildlife sanctuaries, must have an eco-sensitive zone (ESZ) of one kilometre and banned mining activities within such parks across the nation.

Hartal was observed by the district Congress committee in panchayats including Aruvapalam, Thannithode, Chittar, Vadasserikkara, Perinad and Seethathodu. Majority of shops, except medical stores, remained closed and the public transport services were affected since the strike began by 6 in the morning.

Local Congress workers took out protest marches and held meetings to express their concern regarding the implementation of the top court directive.

They also accused the LDF government of remaining silent over the issue which would adversely impact the life of common people.

Issuing a slew of directions, a bench headed by Justice L Nageswara Rao had on June 3 ordered that no permanent structure will be allowed within such ESZ and said if the local law or other rules provide for an ESZ of more than one kilometre then the earlier provision would continue to apply.

The SC order came on a batch of applications filed on a pending PIL of 1995 and they raised two sets of issues with the first one related to mining activities in and around Jamua Ramgarh, a wildlife sanctuary in Rajasthan.

The second set of issues was pertaining to prescribing ESZs surrounding the wildlife sanctuaries and national parks. Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan had welcomed the apex court direction, but at the same time also said that interests of the people, living in areas which may fall in the ESZ, also have to be protected.

Forest Minister A K Saseendran also recently said the directive would cause considerable hardships to the people of Kerala, especially those living or working close to forested areas for years, There were 23 such places in the state which would be adversely affected by the court's direction, he said.