The Union Ministry of Environment Forests and Climate Change, on Thursday, issued a notification, declaring parts of six states including Karnataka, Goa, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Maharashtra and Gujarat as eco-sensitive zones.
The move was made after UNESCO declared the Wester Ghats as a world heritage area. While environmentalists rejoice the move, residents of Uttara Kannada district are shocked.
The notification will affect residents of 602 villages in the district including 43 in Karwar taluk, 43 in Ankola, 26 in Bhatkal, 36 in Kutma, 44 in Honnavar, 96 in Joida, 123 in Sirsi, 103 in Siddapura and 83 in Yellapura taluks.
Almost half the district will be affected by this decision and the Centre has offered 60 days to the state governments to raise objections.
In Karnataka, the ESZ covers 20,668 sq km of forest area in 33 taluks of 10 districts, which includes 1,553 villages.
If the Union government’s decision goes unchallenged, the areas under the eco-sensitive zones will be tagged as restricted areas and no developmental work like industries, construction of bridges, roads and houses can be carried out.
Subhash Gavuda, Secretary, ESZ Opposition Committee of Joida told TOI, “The government is more concerned about animal rights than human rights. Today, this taluk has 80% forest because our forefathers protected it without the help of any law and they were nature lovers. Now, this has become a curse for us and the government is out to destroy our lives.”
He also said that those worst affected would be the tribals who live in the ghats without any basic amenities as the act bans 31 activities including fencing land and grazing cattle in the forest.
Various organizations have demanded that the state bring pressure on the Centre to exempt the district from the notification. They warned that an agitation will be launched against both governments, a report by TOI states.