Will six states along Western Ghats ever reach a consensus on the Kasturirangan reportPic of Western Ghats
news Thursday, April 16, 2015 - 05:30
The ministry of environment and forests (MoEF) has issued an ultimatum to all states along the Western Ghats to submit their final reports on demarcation of ecologically-sensitive areas (ESAs) in their respective territories as per the high-level working group, headed by K Kasturirangan.   The six states along the western ghats- Gujarat, Goa, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Maharashtra and Kerala were sought reports on demarcating land around ESAs.   Speaking at the Environment Ministers’ meet last week, Union Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar had said: “All states have agreed to submit their suggestions on ESA based on ground realities by April 15 and after that the ministry will declare it," a New Indian Express report said. According to a New Indian Express report, none of the States other than Kerala have submitted the report so far. Karnataka government is reported to have sought 15 days more time to submit its comments on the implementation of the controversial Kasturirangan Report on the conservation of Western Ghats.   The Gadgil committee report sparked much controversy in Kerala especially as the opposition CPI-M accused the report of being too environment centric. As proposed in the Gadgil report published in 2011, activities like mining, quarrying, sand mining, thermal power plants, building and construction projects are to be banned in the ecologically sensitive areas in order to protect the ghats. This suggestion attracted opposition from quarry owners and farmers especially from the districts of Idukki and Wayanad. After the findings of the report were made public, both the districts saw many protests and hartals, dissuading the UPA government in power to not implement the report and to adjust the report considering the welfare of farmers. Environmentalist Ullas Kumar says that Kasturirangan report is helping no one other than mining and tourism lobbyists and does not propose actions to conserve the ghats. “Kasturirangan report has been heavily relaxed over the months due to protests over its implication, especially in Idukki and Wayanad districts.” On the final report the State has submitted, he speculates that even though Kerala has no reason to ask for anymore relaxations, the probability of that happening cannot be over ruled. He further added, “Kerala is a state with little or no conservation activities being carried out, which makes Gadgil report even more relevant”. What the controversy is all about The Kasturirangan committee was set up to review the Gadgil committee report and suggest changes so that the states can implement the recommendations of the Gadgil report, keeping in mind the welfare of the inhabitants as well.  Kastururangan committee advised bringing about 60,000 sq km under the ESA, keeping human habitation and agricultural areas out of its ambit, as opposed to the environmental regulations governing an area of 174,700 sq km as proposed by the Gadgil committee. Meanwhile, Forest Minister Thiruvanchoor Radhakrishnan has admitted that there are anomalies in the demarcation of the (ESAs) in the 123 Western Ghats villages in the state as per the K Kasturirangan led-High Level Working Report (HLWG).  ‘Express’, citing a report of the Kerala State Remote Sensing and Environment Centre (KSREC), had earlier revealed widespread discrepancies in the areas identified as ESA and Non-ESA by two government-appointed committees and as per the records of the Forest Department. The Kasturirangan panel has recommended 13,108 sqkm as ESA in Kerala. But based on the recommendation of the state government-appointed Oommen V Oommen panel report, the Union Government has issued the draft notification with a total of 9,993.7 sq km as ESA - which includes 9,107 sq km of notified forest. However, the area has come down to around 8,000 sq km as per the cadastral maps submitted by the panchayat-level committees.  

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