Union Minister of State for Environment and Forests Prakash Javadekar recently said that the recommendations made by the Kasturirangan Committee report on eco-sensitive zones in the Western Ghats would be implemented by this year-end.
- He said that the Union government had asked the State governments concerned to hold consultation with the local population and submit their comments.
- While Kerala has submitted its comments, Karnataka is yet to do so. Tamil Nadu, Goa, Maharashtra, and Gujarat are expected to submit their reports shortly.
The Kasturirangan panel was set up to study the Gadgil committee report on the Western Ghats. The Gadgil panel report had faced unanimous opposition from state governments for recommending that almost three-fourth of the hills, including plantations, cultivated lands and large habitations, be turned into a restricted development zone with an over-arching authority to regulate the region superseding the elected authorities’ role.
Recommendations made by the Kasturirangan panel:
- Around 60,000 sq km of Western Ghats, spread across six states, should be turned into a no-go area for commercial activities like mining, thermal power plants, polluting industries and large housing plans.
- It has suggested that 90% of the natural forests left in the Western Ghats complex – adding upto 60,000 sq km and constituting 37% of the entire hilly belt — be conserved under the Ecologically Sensitive Area (ESA) provisions of the green law. The forest area falling within the ESA would also cover 4,156 villages across the six states. The villages falling under ESA will be involved in decision making on the future projects. All projects will require prior-informed consent and no-objection from the gram sabha (village council) of the village.
- The panel has recommended that there should be a complete ban on mining activity in this zone and current mining activities should be phased out within five years, or at the time of expiry of the mining lease.
- It has banned development of any township or construction over the size of 20,000 sq m in the ESA zone. It has not recommended a ban on hydroelectric projects in the zone, but put a regime of stricter clearances for dams and other projects.
- The report suggests doing away with the complete moratorium on industrial and mining activity in the two Maharashtra districts of Sindhudurg and Ratnagiri. It has suggested persisting with the ban only on the area of the two districts falling within the ESA and a strict regulation in the rest.
- The report has steered clear from demanding a strict ecological control over the Western Ghat complex requiring changes and regulations on agricultural practices the way Gadgil committee report had suggested.
Sources: The Hindu, PIB, Wiki.