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KERALA LAND POLICY

KERALA LAND POLICY

I read through the copy of the draft of new Kerala State Land Policy very keenly and carefully and very well appreciated the commitments of administration to the concerns of the poor and disadvantaged in the society. It is a laudable goal if realized. 1. Land Policy & Tribals As part of land policy a special focus is on landless tribals and the goal of grant of land and shelter and I offer my views on the former in the following.. a. Though the past week’s decision by the administration on the directive from GOI, to locate and release 2.5 ha of forest land very much inside the forests to each tribal family, looks outwardly sincere and novel but inadequate, as the beneficiaries or the members of such families also do need some occupation or gainful employment in the proximity so that food and clothes as well as small cash to devote for educating in the respective families. b. The new policy lesgislated by the GOI, seems very much similar to the policies and schemes followed in the US. While a similar law in Australia was rather quashed by the apex or supreme in Australia, ordering the national government to part-with a large chunk of the land to aboriginals as their sovereign state or so. c. Yet, situation in US for native Indians even now are less than satisfactory as they have to live by certain provisions of US constitution wherein native Indians are to live in and occupy the land with in the boundaries of scores of Indian reservations or euphemistically “nations” though they can work and earn a livelihood and income by working in the neighboring communities outside of the reservations. In fact this handicap of life is not properly focused any where due to their social, economic and educational backwardness. d. In India, unless an imaginative policy aiming to bring the members of the tribes into the main stream of society, the lot of tribals will stay very much the same way they are in now like always looking forward to potential handouts from officials or other arms or individuals of society. The handouts motivate and ingrain their minds to be and remain an underclass, which might sustain their current life style and ultimately dis-empower ing them. e. What is called for is a sincere effort to get these people out of their current environment of forest-animals-hunting-gathering syndrome and place them in the societies out in the plains of midland and lowland of Kerala. With this transformation, at least the newer generation will be empowered like other members of the immediate community they are part of. Until such provisions are part of new tribal policy, the law maker’s intention of facilitation and realization of the ultimate goal of bringing the tribals into main stream of society will remain a far-cry. f. My earnest wish is a set of proposals to give a piece of land and a shelter to all the families, in the plains of midland or low land, where vibrant economic activities, plenty of opportunities for work as well as educational facilities exist alongside. What I am asking is for a one stroke solution to facilitate a quantum leap for social benefits to the grown ups and gains to the younger school age generation among the tribals. g. If they are resettled and live in the forests, they will tend to be and continue to be in the very same vicious circle of exploitation-penury-exploitation by various arms of the society and by government machinery. Opportunities for education and higher education– chief passport to better life- will remain a dream as ever. i. All the openings due to the STs still remain untaken by their youngsters because of lack of good education, skill-sets, and motivations. If once every year one employable member of each of a tribal family gets a gainful job out side the settlements or communities, at least by a decade a huge social transformation would have happened. k. So far the current policies have been to improve the lot of tribals by forest centered approach opposed to the mainstream centered ones in the name of a golden philosophy of preserving the culture and native skills members of the tribes. As a consequence, I am snot sure of the percentage, the majority of tribals are where they were soon after independence. This proposal is a policy change from present day gradualism to one of fast-track-modernism. Land policy and Fish-workers 1. Conventionally the coastal land of Kerala, with the exception of space of large city scapes are occupied by people and families who make most of their lively-hood by engaging themselves in coastal fisheries. The size of fish catch is certainly seasonal both biologically and climatologically and of late per capita fish catch tended to diminish as a result of a steady increase in the number or teams of fish-workers attempting to target the same geographic space. 2. On top of such uncertainties the climatic factor takes a huge toll of their savings during the SW monsoon season characterized by severe erosion of the beach and backshore and occasionally even the ancient coastal plain, uprooting the standing population of coconut palms and the houses of different descriptions. Cement-mortar and concrete houses are perhaps the only exception to the vagaries of the monsoon wave climate. 3. As a rule of thumb, the remedy is to temporarily shift the suffered individuals to some kind of a shelter with free food and medical care. The local schools always come handy for use as shelters, forcing the students and classes to be kept under suspension. The engineering solution that has been practiced until recently across the world is construction of design seawalls and groins (The first groin field is near Vettor in Varala built during the pre-independence days). A large segment of Kerala shoreline with a length of 580 km, is under the threat of wave erosion, and with grants from GOI nearly ¼ th remains to earn the gift of seawall. 4. So far the solutions proposed for warding off the menace of coastal erosion, are building seawalls at preposterously huge capital cost. If all the monies so far spent on building seawalls over the last six decades, were spent on building multi-story-multi-family complexes to relocate the settlers, I would imagine that, we could have easily provided 100% housing for the population in the erosion-belt of the coastal land. Elsewhere in the world, the on going mantra among the coastal engineering technologists goes like “seawalls are good until they fail”. The current mind set of government, in respect of coastal protection needs a change like relocating the population or families of potentially affecteds to a place away from the reach of monsoon erosion, somewhere to the east and at least 500 m away from the modern shoreline. The over all design be something like the one given below. 5. The best possible alternative is to build multi-story apartments, at least 500 m or more away from the modern shoreline and to the east of it, out of the money received as grant from the GOI. These complexes built on columns and beams shall not have the street or ground level living units, and instead will be left open to allow free flow of air or a passage for seawater, in case of an occasional huge backwash. Or else it is very much like the car park provided in the new generation high-rise buildings. Another analogy is the two blocks of office space erected between the old secretariat building and the north and south blocks in the capital. Such a design will neither harm the residents nor create a need to shift the suffered to relief camps operating from schools, at the expense of the study days. In retrospect, think of an investment in your backyard worth a few crores which is only fit and good as a blind in a squat latrine. 6. Therefore, as a policy do away with the seawall which is no longer the gold standard to defend the wave onslaught on people and property, instead invest those funds to build multi-story-multi-family apartments, away from the reach of the storm over-wash-flooding and erosion of beach in the monsoon season. We the ordinary and specialist alike have seen the way the beach rebuilding activity taking place by the off-set of monsoon. All that is required is to convince the GOI on the need for a shift in the shore protection strategy. Land Policy & Water heritage of Kerala Water is getting to be a scarce commodity. In the context of global climate change, the future scenario on water is still anybody’s guess. What we have now is that the climatye is bound to change and as a result the dry seasons will get drier and wet seasons will be wetter. Ramifications of these near possible shifts need to be examined threadbare, and the process is yet to take place as a national policy of priority. Being a modern society, it is our responsibility to ready our self with the knowledge, mechanisms and processes to fend off the intensity and severity of this calamity. We have to consider the climate change consequences in our preparedness in any new policy initiative that we elect to follow. Land policy is o exception. 1. Several-expert-reports have proposed that in India due to the tropical monsoon climate, 50% of precipitation is received in a matter of 15 days of an year and river flow has a duration of only 4 months and people have adapted to this system by living near or close to the river corridors and harvesting water for storage in surface and underground structures. 2. Water future of India is not very encouraging as the demand for water has been steadily on the rise. For e.g., decade of 50’s saw a four fold increase in water use as a result of consumption, irrigation, industry and heat and power engineering. We have been building structures for water storage and use, but “diligently” followed a philosophy of build-neglect-rebuild. That should change. 3. In Kerala several factors affected the water systems. With the arrival of canal water (for irrigation) and inadequacy of conventional structures on the one hand and large increments in the size of the population on the other led to rising water needs (like food, shelter, healthcare and education). The rise of micro-households in lieu of joint families, introduction of equal-right-to-property-among-siblings in the family by a decree of Maharaja and by land reforms after independence resulting in division of property into unviable and uneconomic sizes, led to the neglect and transformation of several thousand large and small ponds by eutrophication, sedimentation and lack of maintenance and even reclamation. This diluted the Kerala society’s insurance against drought to a great extent. 4. Unfortunately, ponds, unlike other physical structures are the ones that will suffer utmost in a model of build-and-forget paradigm. It calls for periodic repair work and or else they go through the natural transformation to become a marsh- a prime candidate for potential reclamation for another public or private use. As a result, with the exception of temple ponds, most others have practically outlived their original use and nearly disappeared or is in the process. 5. The Panfish (v.1), published by a government fisheries agency, gives at least a head count of all the ponds of Kerala. The saving of such ponds and re-living them as envisioned in the land policy is commendable and needs pursuing with great determination. A cataloging spatial & referencing system in a GIS platform is very much desirable and ideal during these days, which can be accessed by one and all like access to water by every member of the society envisioned in the MDP (ending by 2015) of the UN This will enable the conservation of existing ponds or revival of their ghosts that profusely occur in the midland and/or coastal land. 6. Of late, reports on accidental fall or intentional jump in to pools of water gathered in abandoned quarries have started appearing in the media. One good thing the PRIs could be required to consider, is conversion of such spots as sites of water storage or sport. A little bit of engineering treatment to make them less porous needs to be examined to extend the service life of such accumulated water. 7. Construction of “Greenways” meant as a track for jogging, biking and hiking may be considered along the river shores to enable some degree of surveillance by the local chapter of friends of rivers/river and ponds or what ever. The PRI with decentralized control and commitment must take charge of creation and maintenance. Land Policy, River sand and River Undoubtedly and truly, all the rivers of Kerala are in a morbid state, only due to the removal of channel sand and now the sand of ancient flood plain for use in the domestic construction sector. For the construction sector, availability of sand or fine aggregate is as important as steel and cement. 1. On a public interest litigation say in about 2 decades or earlier, the Kerala High Court directed the CESS, Trivandrum and CWRDM, Kozhikod, to asses the annually removable sand from the kadavus for auction by the PRI institutions as the latter has the rights over the river sand – a wrongly conceived piece of decentralization policy. This revenue was very essential and quite attractive for the panchayats in those days, when money was the only scarce thing around in their account. We all know that these days, with the exception of some states (Kerala included) PRIs fund is directly remitted by GOI to the respective accounts. For some unknown reason or known reason this does not happen any way in Kerala. 2.That we all deeply worry about the state of our rivers, is sufficient ground for the state of Kerala to move the High Court to review its earlier decision on river sand assessment to facilitate the auction by PRIs, in order to save the riverine physical system and river ecosystem. What is now called for is a ban on sand removal for say another 5 decades. 3.. With least knowledge of river science, but only with practical wisdom, the right-to-remove-sand is offered to clients by public auction has been continuing unabated with a licenses issued by one of the two research institutions of the state. Unfortunately, due to overly-social reasons the sand licensing went on to a stage, when the rivers lost their physical attributes and along side the very human ecosystem and river ecology. 4. Therefore, I suggest a total ban on use of river sand in the construction sector – one of the fastest growing sectors in the state, be legislated and in lieu of river sand, use of crusher sand be made a state policy. In all the fast growing economies building boom is a growth industry, consuming huge volumes hollow cement brocks, cement mortar and cement concrete, all needing fine aggregate, for which the civil engineer found a source in the river channels of Kerala. 5. What went into oblivion in the minds of engineer and the user community is the knowledge that the time required for formation of sand from parent rock is a very slow and long one needing at least one million years. For example, a slab of I.0 m thick rock needs at least million year for transforming into a weathered rock from which sand fraction (approximating only by say 27%) is released into the stream net during the rainy season. 6. The fine aggregate or sand has a wonderful substitute in actual use, i.e., the crusher sand or manufactured sand which is extensively used in casting hollow cement bricks The arch dam at Idukki, had used up a few hundred thousand tons of crusher sand or fine aggregate for making concrete for the arch dam. [So worth of crusher sand did go through the acid test of strength and quality]. Land Policy, Watershed maps and PRIs 1. In a study carried out during the early 80’s in the Neyyar basin, Trivandrum Dist., on the sum of stream lengths of all stream orders taken together for the early 1910’s and 11968’s, we noted a steep fall in the cumulative stream lengths in the later or 1968 base. This primarily resulted from blocking the stream corridor by landscaping, channel plugging etc. In fact such actions in the 1st or 2nd order streams are with least consequences, while in the 3rd or higher orders it is a matter of intervention into the natural system, and needs intervention of PRI’s by removing and banning such modifications of natural flow. The paddy fields, for example when filled with soil, go through this process of rearrangement of water courses affection the physical system. 2. This calls for making available the maps of all water sheds created by Land Use Board, to the respective PRIs as soft copies so that any contentions arising with in the jurisdiction can be resolved amicably. In fact it is an indirect empowerment of the members of the local community. Summary A new maverick approach is needed in the new policy initiatives than a gradualism based minimalism if fruits of the reforms are to be reaped within the life time of current generation. Our tribal people do deserve places better than forests to live, prosper and have babies with a future that are comparable with that of the folks settled in the coastal plainers and midlanders. The government has to act as a facilitator only. The fish-workers of Kerala coastal land live from year to year – a rather peculiar existence. They are settled in parcels of land that is renewed on an early basis due to wave erosion and rebuilding later by the offset of monsoon. All the money’s so far invested in building seawalls –astoundingly over a large length in the modern backshore – were to be given in cash each affected family would have become millionaires. It is high time that protection of that society by seawalls be modified and instead of seawalls now what needs to be given is decent group housing complexes on columns and beams with a free flood way at the ground level between the concrete columns. In other words, housing blocks standing on concrete props but allow free flow of storm overwash. With the water heritage of ponds of variable sizes, shaft wells, springs and other water harvesting mechanisms, land treatment and a lower population, water was available free of cost to the various users. Scenario has transformed by the entry and spread of piped in protected water, canal irrigation, and consequent wanton neglect, poor maintenance and reclamation of classical water sources. Unless, a renaissance of these mechanisms happen water security might become a more elusive dream. Therefore, documentation with spatial referencing of these facilities is put in place after research and documentation to keep tab on their state of affairs so that these can be considered for regeneration and rehabilitation instead of reclamation. Our dying rivers need a salvation so that these natural systems of the landscape and human ecosystem can come back to vibrancy to serve the posterity. For this a review petition be filed in the Kerala High court requesting the court to reconsider its earlier decision to fix a scientifically determined quota on removable sand for the PRI to auction off. Manufactured or crusher sand be recommended for construction instead of the river sand, the life blood of a river system. ————

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