Environment

No water for Ducks – Practically and Legally!

Duck-farming

One of my clients who is engaged in rearing of duck, wanted to know the various licenses he should have, to conduct his duck farm, legally. He had none at present. But, during the dawn of Goods and Service Tax, he wanted to know the details of other licenses required to conduct duck farming .

In Kerala, duck farming is regulated under the Kerala Panchayat Raj (Licensing of Livestock Farms) Rules, 2012. According to the Rules, one can rear 15 poultry birds in one cent of land. In addition to that, based on the number of birds reared, there should be Fertilizer Pits (വളക്കുഴി), and burial pits (if there are more than 5000 birds), for the farm. The license is to be issued by the Secretary of the concerned Grama Panchayat. The certificates from the Pollution Control Board and District Medical Officer, are necessary, though it can be exempted by the Secretary, if it is so felt by him, on basis of location of the farm.

However, there is a catch to all these. The farm cannot be operated in a paddy land. This is because, according to Kerala Conservation of Paddy land and Wetland Act, 2008, the Panchayat is prohibited from issuing any license in any property classified as Paddy Land. My client was operating his duck farm in a paddy land. Although his land is only partially reclaimed, the entire land is included in the data bank as paddy land. So he cannot get any license from the Panchayat.

This is an anomaly in the law as ducks are traditionally reared in paddy fields.  Although I suggested to my client to file a writ petition, to cure the anomaly, he declined to proceed with a case. He rather preferred to do his business under the radar of law, having done so, peacefully, for the last several years. When I pressed him for the real reason for his hesitation, the answer astonished me.

Conventionally, although ducks require amble amount of puddled water for growth; in poultry farms, they are reared in cages, without taking them to water. My client has vast extent of wetland but none of his ducks have the fortune to swim in it. So according to my client, if a case is filed to cure the anomaly in law, it may backfire, questioning his very method of duck farming.

One thing is very clear. Ducks in Kerala are in a state of Catch 22.

If one rears ducks in paddy fields, then he will not get license, and it is rather illegal; and if he rears ducks in dry land, then ducks will not get water. Other alternatives are not commercially viable. So in short, there is no water for ducks, practically and legally, in Kerala.

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The N-th procedure to correct Data Bank

I can’t really remember all those methods that were formulated to correct the data bank under the Kerala Conservation of Paddy Land and Wetland Act, 2008. There have been numerous. All those procedures were either replaced or repealed, before any application could reach a logical conclusion.

If I remember correctly, first it was the Thasildar under the Kerala Land Tax Act who was empowered to correct the Basic Tax Register (and in course the data bank), if it was found that the land in reality is not a Paddy Land. Later, his power was curtailed, and the Kerala High Court assumed this role in its original jurisdiction. But when number of cases that are filed got out of control, the Kerala High Court decided to relegate the function to the Local Level Monitoring Committee or the Revenue Divisional Officer, depending on the entry in the data bank. Thereafter, in the year 2015, the UDF Government brought in the controversial Section 3A for correction of data bank by the District Collector. But again, this section was repealed after the Kerala High Court warned of it being struck down as unconstitutional.

Sometime in the year 2016, somebody informed the Kerala High Court that there is a Center for Remote Sensing at Thiruvananthapuaram, which has taken satellite pictures of all of Kerala, and it could reveal how the land was lying as on the year 2008. So now, the Kerala High Court has again assumed the responsibility of correcting the data bank, after calling for report from this “Kerala State Remote Sensing and Environment Centre, Thiruvananthpuaram” through the Agricultural Officer, who is the convener of the Local Level Monitoring Committee. This is the procedure in currently in vogue for correcting the data bank, but now it is learned that a new notification has come into effect.

I haven’t seen the official notification, but the newspaper report is enclosed here under for reference. According to that report, one has to go directly to the Local Level Monitoring Committee, for correction of mistakes in the data bank, within 90days from 1st June 2017. The time limit of 90days is prescribed only for the Kerala High Court to strike it down.

For me, one thing is very clear. The Kerala Conservation of Paddy land and Wetland Act, 2008, is an unruly gal, wandering here and there without any resolve, and yet to enter her teenage. When she is a teenager, I bet, all including the Kerala Government, Environmental Activists and Kerala High Court would vie to tame her, and get her attention, with their own pieces of advice.

So, according to me, it is better to wait and watch, and see how this girl grows up into a woman, instead of rushing in for her immediate attention.

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PS: The amendment GO (P) No. 34/2017/Revenue dated 30/5/2017 (SRO 301/2017) is embedded hereunder

Hurdles in turning Kerala green!

It was World Earth Day yesterday and all people ranging from radio jokeis to politicians were crying for planting more trees in Kerala. I have planted lot of trees in this world. My home is surrounded with so many trees that the place can be safely described as amini private forest. My father and I have planted lot of aanjili, mahogany and aariveep trees alone the roadsides of Aluva-Munnar Road. From my experience as a person who has planted many trees, there are several small small hurdles, in the character of malayalees and laws implemented here, which need to be corrected, if we are actually serious about increasing the tree cover. They are enumerated hereunder for identifying the huddles in turning Kerala Green.

  1. Roadside Advertisers and Billboards: These people are the single biggest enemy of trees in Kerala. They like to have a clear view for their advertisements and to ensure that, they would cut down all trees and plants in the vicinity. Why aren’t they banned or regulated yet?
  2. Municipality Sweepers: Municipality sweepers like to keep their workload small. Whenever they see one newly planted sapling, they would ensure that all the waste swept from the city is collected at bottom of that plant, and would set it afire, so that plant does not generate any new waste in future, for them to sweep.
  3. Electricity Linemen: KSEB has a team of people with sickles attached to long rods to cut trees. Although they are supposed to prune the branches alone, to avoid touching with the electricity lines, they often cut the head of the tree itself, dwarfing the tree and impairing its growth.
  4. Dangerous Trees and abuse of S.133CrPC: The law says that if a tree is danger to man or his property, or if it is a nuisance to his neighbour, it shall be cut down. Section 133 CrPC is invoked by the RDO to cut down such trees. According to me, this provision is much due for repeal or reading down. It has outlived its purpose, and is in fact a burden upon this generation, which is striving to increase tree cover.
    How can the RDO determine whether a tree is good, bad or decaying, when he is no expert of trees? Why should a tree be cut down just because a dimwitted neighbour thinks that it is a nuisance? Although Kerala Promotion of Tree Growth in Non-Forest Areas Act, 2005, permit persons to freely plant trees in his land and ‘appropriately and generally’ contribute to the increasing tree cover, no RDO or Court ever permits a person to retain the branches of his tree hanging onto neighbour’s property. This according to me is a downside in the existing law, or its interpretation, in promoting tree cover.
  5. Beautifying the cities with concrete: In Perumbavoor, my home town, there used to be mud and soil in between footpath and edge of the road. Now it is concreted to beautify the city. The  idea is great, but it is implemented in the most ugly and unscientific manner.Once the mother earth is covered up in concrete, there is no place for trees to grow, or water to percolate. After this gap was filled with concrete, Perumbavoor witnessed its first flood during last year’s rain. Some beautification it was. Better to retain the mother earth as it is.
  6.  No incentive for having trees: The building rules prevalent in the state give no concession for having trees; or penalty for not having trees in a property. This is a serious lacuna in the existing building rules of the State, which has provisions for sundry measures like rainwater harvesting and biogas plant. An owner of a property should be given due credit for growing trees, while constructing a building. Absence of such a credit has created a social norm and prudence of not having trees in commercially important properties.
  7. Penalty for not having a tree in a piece of land: I have seen many lands, with sufficient space for planting trees, but without any tree. Most malayaees like to have tiled open spaces rather than tree-shaded open spaces. This is to avoid the pain of sweeping the grounds daily. The government should overcome this lethargy of malayalees by imposing proper penalties. At lease one tree in a plot of land should be made the state policy in taxing statues.
  8. Conservation of Paddyland and Wetland Act, 2008: I not a fan of this statue, although it is promulgated on the pretext of preserving environment. According to me, this law has has been single handedly responsible for changing the climate of Kerala. It has been highly counter productive so far, and it has resulted in drastic reduction of paddy fields in Kerala. Everyone now wants to convert their paddyland, as it is made into a burden with lot of disabilities attached. This is not the correct way to preserve paddylands. The government should at least let paddy field owners cultivate other crops and trees (like rubber) to retain the minimum greenery the state has.

Today it is 36 degree Celsius in Kochi. We are witnessing unprecedented summer heat. If we don’t act now and increase the tree cover in Kerala, soon the place would be a desert, populated with hotair inflated egoistic persons.

Winter is coming..!

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A beautiful scene from my backyard! Flowering of Vella Chamba Tree