Campaigning organisation Jhatkaa has started an online petition, urging Karnataka Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy to declare the Western Ghats as an eco-sensitive area (ESA), with the other five states agreeing to do so.
In September, it was reported that the Karnataka was not agreeing to the Centre’s draft notification to declare the ghats as an eco-sensitive area. The first notification in 2014 had made 56,825 sq km of the Western Ghats in six states -- including Karnataka, Kerala, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu -- eco-sensitive. Declaring the region as eco-sensitive prohibits activities like mining or setting up of red category industries that pollute the environment.
You can sign the petition here.
The petition has argued that “vested political interests shouldn’t stand in the way of preventing further disasters like the ones we saw in Kerala and Karnataka just two months ago”. While the state government has said it opposes the draft notification because it will affect state’s economy, forest officials told TNM that the decision was made primarily to safeguard interests of ministers who are involved in mining activities in the area.
Incidentally, CM HD Kumaraswamy had himself ordered a temporary halt in land conversions in the region while reviewing the flood situation in Kodagu. He had directed officials to assess the man-made reasons for the disaster.
In the wake of devastating floods in August in Kerala which claimed more than 400 lives, it was highlighted how ecology experts had predicted such a disaster, owing to the environmental damage done to the delicate ecosystem of the Ghats.
In a report published by an ecology expert panel appointed by the central government headed by Professor Madhav Gadgil in 2010, it was recommended that 75% of Western Ghats be declared eco-sensitive as opposed to 37% recommended by a parallel recommendation report by a committee headed by scientist K Kasturirangan.
The main point of contention between the two reports, however, is the freedom given to local bodies and residents of villages in the Western Ghats region. While the Gadgil committee had recommended that local bodies and villagers should be consulted before any developmental project can be taken up in an ESA, the Kasturirangan report asserted that local bodies cannot have a say in an economic decision. Both reports concluded that there should be no large dams, hydel power projects built and no public land should be converted further.