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Chandy faces heat over Kasturirangan report
Friday February 28, 2014 9:49 PM, IANS

A Kerala Congress (Mani) leader Friday sought an assurance from Chief Minister Oommen Chandy that he would pursue the Centre for withdrawal of the G. Kasturirangan committee's recommendations regarding the Western Ghats.

"Chandy should immediately go to Delhi to see that the centre withdraws the controversial order. If not, the very existence of this government would be at stake," said KC(M) general secretary Antony Raju.

A state-appointed panel met top forest ministry officials in Delhi Thursday to explain the concerns of the people here about the fallout of the report on conservation of the Western Ghats.

"I do not think Kerala will be punished for increasing the forest cover... We are hopeful, we can hear good news very shortly," said Chandy .

The union environment and forests ministry in November last year came out with an order which had five conditions applicable to 123 villages in the state.

The order prohibits mining, setting up of thermal plants and also restricts construction of buildings to less than 20,000 square metres.

It also states that no township project in these villages can exceed 50 hectares and industries in the red category cannot be set up in these villages.

The ministry had clamped the ban on the basis of the Kasturirangan panel report on the Western Ghats Nov 16.

The order was particularly resented in the hilly district of Idukki and Wayanad as well as the hill areas of Kozhikode and Kannur districts.

Of the nine KC(M) legislators, seven are from the districts of Idukki and Kottayam.

Over the years, Idukki and its neighbouring Kottayam district have been the strong citadel of the Kerala Congress (Mani), the third biggest ally of the Chandy-led United Democratic Front.

However, to cool down things over the matter, KC(M) chief and State Finance Minister K.M. Mani said the policy decisions are announced by the party chairman.

A sizeable number of the population in these 123 villages are Christian settlers who have the full backing of the churches, especially the Catholic Church.

"The Congress-led government here should not forget that a Lok Sabha election is fast approaching and if we do not get a positive response, then things will be very bad," said a catholic priest in Kozhikode district.

"If the Congress party is really serious, it should see that the order is withdrawn immediately," CPI-M state secretary Pinarayi Vijayan told reporters in Delhi.

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