Kerala awaits Javadekar’s decision on Western Ghats

June 3, 2014 by  
Filed under newsletter-india

Western GhatsThiruvananthapuram, June 1, 2014: People of Kerala are eagerly waiting to see what decision federal Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar takes on reports prepared by the Madhav Gadgil and K Kasturirangan panels on how to conserve the Western Ghats.

Javadekar recently announced that a decision would be taken at a meeting in New Delhi on June 4.

Kasturirangan was roped in by the environment and forests ministry to head a 10-member High-Level Working Group (HLWG) to advise the federal government on the recommendations made by the Gadgil-led experts panel on how to conserve the ecologically fragile Western Ghats.

The Western Ghats is a Unesco recognised natural heritage site comprising a contiguous forested mountain range, which stretches from Kerala to southern Gujarat.

The panel report has faced opposition in several states in the Western Ghats belt, including Kerala and Goa.

The Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel (WGEEP), also known as the Gadgil Commission, submitted its report to the federal government on August 31, 2011.

But following huge resentment over the report from six states, including Kerala, the then Congress-led government appointed a panel headed by noted space scientist Kasturirangan to study the Gadgil report.

Following the Kasturirangan report, the ministry in November 2013 came out with an order which laid out five conditions applicable to 123 villages in Kerala.

The order prohibits mining and setting up of thermal plants, and restricts construction of buildings to less than 20,000sqm. It also says no township project in these villages can exceed 50 hectares, and industries in the red category cannot be set up in these villages.

Kerala was also unhappy with Kasturirangan’s report.

After public outcry from the Catholic Church, residents of Idukki and other hill districts, a notification was issued by the forests ministry in March that accepted the directions to keep agricultural land, plantations and habitations out of 123 villages that were classified by the HLWG as ecologically sensitive areas (ESAs).

Through this notification, the total area in Kerala that would come under the Western Ghats came down from 13,108sqkm to 9,993sqkm.

This includes 9,107sqkm of forests and 886sqkm of rocky areas and meadows where there is no human habitation.

The Kerala State Biodiversity Board (KSBB), which was entrusted with the job of preparing the fresh demarcation as directed by the forests ministry, however, appears to be puzzled with Javedekar’s statement.

“The matter is sub-judice and the issue is being looked into by the Green Tribunal. Of the six states through which the Western Bhats passes (Maharashtra, Gujarat, Karnataka, Goa, Tamil Nadu and Kerala), when the Gadgil Committee report came, three states were ruled by the BJP and all of them opposed it.

“Hence, the Kasturirangan Committee was appointed,” said KSBB member-secretary KP Laladhas. While the Congress and its allies and the Left have been opposing both the reports, the BJP’s Kerala unit has been batting for implementing the Gadgil report.

The BJP on Sunday got a new partner on the issue when the Church of South India, in a letter read out in all its churches, said all people should speak out about their concerns on the protection of environment.

– ians

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