The opposition UDF today staged a walkout in the Kerala assembly alleging that the administration had failed to protect the reserve forests in the state, even as the Forest Minister K Raju asserted that the government was committed to preserve the forests.
Referring to a recent Kerala High Court order in a case related to Ponthan Puzha forest reserve, opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala alleged that the government had lost the case due to failure in presenting the facts properly.
Chennithala alleged that the government failed in properly conducting the case related to more then 7,000 acres of reserve land in Kottayam-Pathanamthitta districts.
“There was a conspiracy to see that the case goes in favour of private parties who had challenged the government notification of declaring the area as reserve forest”, he said. He said Alapra and Valiyakavu reserves, that forms part of the Ponthan Puzha forest, has been denotified now risking several factors.
The Manimala and Pampa rivers, the major source of drinking water for Kottayam and Pathanamthitta districts, originated from the forest, he said. Kerala Congress (M) leader K M Mani, who raised the issue as an adjournment motion, said the government should file revision petition against the high court order to see that the forest land do not go into the hands of private parties.
He alleged that there was serious lapse on the part of the government in conducting the case properly in the high court due to which the verdict went in favour of private claimants of the land. Alleging that the government was not sincere in conducting the case, he also trooped out of the House along with his party MLAs.
Replying to the notice for the motion, Raju rejected the opposition charge that there were lapses in conducting the case and made it clear that the government would file revision petition and take steps to preserve the disputed areas a reserve forest.The minister said that there were several farmers settled in the area much before January 1, 1977, and all of them would be given pattas.
Ponthan Puzha was notified as Reserve Forest in 1905 under Travancore Forest Act. Litigations were going on for the last several decades in various courts against the notification.
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