The proposed plan to bring Mangalavanam Bird Sanctuary and its territory under the Eco-Sensitive Zone (ESZ) is yet to fructify. To be notified in the Ministry of Environment and Forests’ list of ESZs, the State Cabinet has to submit site-specific proposals. It is learnt that Mangalavanam was not among the list submitted by the Cabinet even though the MLAs from the district unanimously supported the plan.
According to sources, the intervention of the Finance Ministry has toppled the plans of including the proposal in the Cabinet list.
“The territory identified includes the land owned by the Railways, the Kochi Refinery and Kerala State Housing Board. But the Finance Minister had announced a project for setting up Kochi Finance City in the last state Budget. Though it was proposed to be constructed at Marine Drive, the authorities concerned said that the Finance City, a joint venture project, would be set up at the 18-acre plot owned by Kerala State Housing Board, behind the High Court building,” sources alleged.
“The said land is a part of the proposed territory of Managalavanam ESZ. Once it is declared as an ESZ, construction activities will be regulated which may be a reason why the promoters of Finance City project do not want the proposal to be submitted before the MoEF,” sources alleged.
As per the guidelines issued by the MoEF on ESZ, the Eco-Sensitive Zone meant to act as a shock absorber or act as a transition zone to the protected areas and development activities would be regulated around them.
The basic aim is to regulate certain activities around the ESZ so as to minimise their negative impacts on the fragile eco-system encompassing the protected area.
The Forest Department will first consider the requirement for an eco-sensitive zone to act as a shock absorber, suggest the best methods for management and broad-based thematic activities to be included in the master plan of the region while demarcating the eco-sensitive zones.
“The Mangalavanam Samrakshana Samithi with Hibi Eden MLA as the chairman had completed all the necessary work for getting the recognition. As per the MoEF guidelines, the Forest Department should consider the requirement for an eco-sensitive zone, should come up with best methods for management of the zone and draft a master plan of the region along with the demarcation of ESZs. The officials of the Forest Department who are managing the activities of the Managalavanam have completed the necessary activities. But the state will have to take the final decision,” said a Corporation official, who was a member of the Samithi.