KOCHI: Gmelina arborea, Wrightia tinctoria, guava and jamun are just some of the native species to have taken roots again in some of the forest lands in the state which had witnessed human habitation for many decades.
Saplings have started growing again in 12 hectares of land inside the forest in various parts of the state as non–tribal people who used to live there moved out of the forest to settle elsewhere.
More area is being added as many more are expressing willingness to relocate from the forest helping bring down human intervention in the forest, avoid man-animal conflicts and increase forest regeneration.
As per data available from the forest department, 84 families from 12ha relocated in the past year alone. The process of relocating another 135 families from 39ha is underway as they have been given the first installment of compensation.
The department is flooded with requests from those who want to move out. It received another 375 applications amounting to 45ha.
The compensation is given under the Rebuild Kerala initiative launched after the 2018 floods.
“They are families who got title deeds from the government. With no scope for development works, man-animal conflicts and accessibility issues, people want to relocate,” said a forest official.
“The government gives Rs 15 lakh as compensation for each unit. Owners who possess forest land but do not reside there will get Rs 15 lakh for up to five acres, which will be treated as a single unit,” the forest official said.
“The second unit, between five and 10 acres, will get another Rs 15 lakh. Others like children will not be eligible for the amount. But for a resident, sub-units are also eligible and get additional 15 lakhs other than parents,”they added.
Kerala had witnessed a major village relocation programme around the Wayanad wildlife sanctuary with the support of the Central government years ago.
Both tribals and non–tribals were relocated based on the protocols of the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA). “The first voluntary village relocation in was in Wayanad in 2011. The relocation was done after a study by the Kerala Forest Research Institute,” said N Badusha who is part of the Wayanad Prakruthi Samrakshana Samiti, an NGO that played a key role in ensuring the relocation in the
Wayanad wildlife sanctuary.
“It was found that 2,200 families were residing in and around the sanctuary and they were facing difficulties. In the first phase, 800 families from 14 villages were relocated. But the programme has lost its momentum in the last three years,” Badusha added.