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South India green policy shelved after church-led protests

Jan. 2, 2014

The Federal Environment Ministry has suspended the implementation of a plan that would have led to the eviction of up to two million families from an area of dense forest following protests led by the powerful Church in southern Kerala state.

The policy would provide for the eviction of many “settler” families and established businesses that have been on their land for decades.

“We are happy that the implementation of the policy has been suspended,” Bishop Remigiose Inchananiyil of Thamassery diocese in Kerala told The Tablet.

Bishop Inchananiyil was one of the Catholic bishops who protests by thousands of Catholics and non-Catholics against the implementation of the Kasturirangan Report on Western Ghats, a mountain range and biodiversity hotspot along the west coast of south India.

The environment protection recommendations of the panel, the protesters claimed, were “draconian measures” that would have affected nearly two million farmer families in the special “eco-zones” identified by the panel.

Many of the affected families are Christians who moved to the hills decades ago, cleared jungles and started farming along the mountain slopes and valleys.

The protests led to arson attacks on forestry department offices and vehicles, prompting counter protests from the green lobby in support of the policy.

The coalition Government suspended implementation of the policy two days after top Kerala church officials led by Cardinals George Alencherry of the Syro-Malabar Church and Baselios mar Cleemis of the Syro-Malankara Church flew to New Delhi to meet Sonia Gandhi, president of the Congress Party, to demand the policy be withdrawn.

Source: The Tablet (The International catholic News Weekly)



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