The centre will soon issue a fresh draft notification declaring Western Ghats as an eco-sensitive area (ESA) with all but one of the six affected states on board. Karnataka is set to reject the notification as “it will adversely affect the state’s economy.”
An official from the Ministry of Environment told Hindustan Times that Karnataka was not in favour of declaring the Western Ghats as an ESA. “Karnataka, however, is not agreeing with even the concept of ESA,” the official told the newspaper.
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 and setting up industries that pollute the environment. The states that objected to the earlier notification had also claimed that it would affect economic development.
An official in the Karnataka Forest Ministry confirmed the developments, and claimed that the department could not influence the decision of the state government. "The decision is not new. Earlier, a Cabinet sub committee had taken the decision before the current government was in place. This will only encourage mining and other red category industrial activities. There are ministers who have mining interests. Otherwise, if it becomes an ESA, there won't be any activity, not even building of roads." the official told TNM on condition of anonymity.
In a report published by a working group headed by 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.