Settler farmers in the Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary (WWS) and environmental organisations in the district have welcomed the decision of the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate change (MoEFCC) to enhance the rate of funding from ₹10 lakh to ₹15 lakh to each eligible family under the ongoing voluntary village relocation project of the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA).
A recent order issued by Rajendra G. Garawad, Deputy Inspector General, NTCA, also urged State governments to execute the directive with immediate effect.
According to the earlier guidelines of the scheme, a son above 18 years irrespective of his marital status, unmarried daughter above 18 years, physically and mentally challenged persons irrespective of their age and sex, minor orphan, and widow or woman divorcee will be treated as separate families. The eligible families were provided with a compensation of ₹10 lakh each, irrespective of the nature or extend of the land they possessed.
The Kerala Forest Research Institute, Peechi, had conducted a survey 13 years ago on the relocation of settlers under the voluntary resettlement project. It had found that as many as 10,604 people from 2,613 families in 110 settlements needed to be relocated.
The survey had identified 1,388 people from 880 families in 14 settlements for relocation in the first phase at a cost of ₹88 crore. Though the project had been launched in 2006, it was rolled out in the sanctuary in 2011. The government could relocate nearly 560 families so far, including tribal families, in 10 settlements in the sanctuary under the project.
It was a long-standing demand of settler farmers, environmentalists, and State governments to enhance the compensation, as the land value and the prices of construction materials had gone up manifold, N. Badusha, president, Wayanad Prakruthi Samrakshana Samiti, said.
The decision of the MoEFCC will be a great relief to thousands of settler farmer families in the sanctuary, as man-animal conflict had peaked inside forest settlements, A. Kesavan Chetty, a farmer of the Chettyalthur settlement said.