KOCHI: Do we need paddy land, wetland or IT parks? It seems the debate is not going to end in the near future.
But, making its stand clear on the issue, the State Government has relaxed the Kerala Conservation of Paddy Land and Wetland Act-2008 for setting up ‘private integrated’ IT parks and technology parks in the State.
The criteria, as per the government order (No 22/2014/ITD, dated July 22, 2014) is that ‘the minimum land area shall be 20 acres, and shall be owned or leased in the name of the applicant in urban or suburban areas’.
Experts point out that as per the new government order anyone in the State could fill paddy land and wetland to construct IT parks. But they must ensure that they fill over 20 acres of land.
“The government’s decision is a clear violation of the Paddy Land and Wetland Act. It questions the very purpose of the Act. To set up an IT park in the State, it is not necessary to fill paddy fields. The latest order will only promote large-scale paddy land filling.
“Though the order specifies that only urban and suburban areas will come under the purview of the order in Kerala, there is an urban area within every 10 km.
“As a result, anyone can fill paddy land and wetland by saying that it is for setting up IT park, and they can easily back-off from the project after filling the land,” said environment and legal expert Harish Vasudevan.
The government had earlier approved the guidelines and procedures for setting up private integrated IT and technology parks, on the basis of the new IT policy of 2012, by issuing an order (No 10/2013/ITD) on April 3, 2013.
Further, it relaxed Section-2(xiv) of the Kerala Conservation of Paddy Land and Wetland Act-2008 by issuing another order (No126/2014/Rev) on February 28. The final amendment to the order came on July 22.
“IT and technology parks having high investment potentials and employment opportunities can be set up on paddy land and wetland by including them under the clause of ‘public purpose’ of the Act,” the order said.
“At a time when the Central Government also does not favour the filling of paddy land, the State Government has issued such an order. If people continue to fill paddy land and wetland to set up IT parks the remaining fields in Kerala would vanish soon,” said P Rajeeve MP.