Save the Ghats

The decision of the Karnataka government to disagree with the recommendations of the K Kasturirangan committee on banning quarrying and sand mining and to bring down the extent of area and the number of villages in the ecologically sensitive Western Ghats needs to be immediately reversed.

The October, 2013 report, prepared by the high-level working group on the Western Ghats, was itself a highly watered down document compared to the one prepared by the panel under eminent ecologist Madhav Gadgil.

Ever since Gadgil submitted his report in 2011, politics and vested interests have put pressure on decision-making at every level.

Decisions, be it of the Centre to constitute the Kasturirangan committee or of Kerala government to reject both the reports, or of the Karnataka government now to object to certain recommendations of the second report, were obviously taken to suit different lobbies in the light of the least concern shown in protecting the ecologically rich Ghats, one of the world’s top 10 biodiversity hotspots and home to exotic flora and fauna.

With Monday’s cabinet decision, Karnataka has joined the list of Western Ghats states which are opposed to both the reports either in toto or partially.

The demand that quarrying and sand mining be allowed shows the utter disregard towards the protection of natural wealth.

Needless to say quarrying and sand mining contribute significantly to degradation of our environment and forest treasure.

The Kasturirangan committee had already removed large areas of human habitations from protection zone, but wanted all mining including quarrying to be banned.

The state government wants further dilution of these recommendations in total contravention of the Gadgil report on protecting ecologically sensitive areas (ESAs).

The draft notification issued by the Centre on the ESA, amplifies that it has succumbed to the pressure brought in by different quarters in Kerala – it has left the demarcation of the ESA there to the state authorities by banking on their evaluation of the Western Ghats’ boundaries.

This may well be taken as a cue by the other Western Ghats states to bring pressure to further dilute the draft notification to ensure that they too have their say.

All these indicate the dire need to move away from a politically directed process of taking key environmental decisions.

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