Environment Ministry asks 6 states to stop development activities in Western Ghats
The list of states include Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Goa, Maharashtra and Gujarat
New Delhi: Environment Ministry has issued directions to six state governments prohibiting development activities including mining and quarrying in the 60,000 sq km ecologically sensitive area of Western Ghats.
The ministry’s direction came weeks after it gave approval to a controversial report on Western Ghats prepared by the K Kasturirangan-led panel which recommended prohibition on development activities in 37 per cent of natural landscape that has high biological richness.
In its order issued to Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Goa, Maharashtra and Gujarat yesterday, the ministry said the “directions will come into force with immediate effect and remain in force till further orders”.
“In case of any violation, appropriate legal action under the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 shall be taken,” it said. The 37 per cent of natural landscape identified by the 10-member High Level Working Group under Kasturirangan has low forest fragmentation, low population density and containing protected areas, world heritage sites and tiger and elephant corridors has been identified as Ecologically Sensitive Area.
According to the direction, activities including mining, quarrying, sand mining, thermal power plants, building and construction projects of 20,000 sq m area and above and township and area development projects with an area of 50 ha and above or with built up area of 1,50,000 sq m and above will not be allowed in these areas.
The ministry has also imposed a strict ban on all red category industries which are identified as heavily polluting by it. According to the ministry, the Kasturirangan panel has recommended a “non-tolerance policy” with respect to highly interventionist and environmentally damaging activities like mining or polluting industries in natural landscape of Western Ghats which is under “unprecedented threats” due to mining and urbanisation.
The Kasturirangan report had come under heavy criticism by Madhav Gadgil, author of the Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel report. He has alleged that it was prepared on the basis of “web-based consultation” ignoring concerns of the local people.
The Kasturirangan panel was constituted to examine the detailed Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel report prepared under Gadgil’s leadership.
The ministry has said that it would soon constitute a high-level committee to monitor the implementation of the Kasturirangan committee report in a time-bound manner.