Govt junks Gadgil panel report

Govt junks Gadgil panel report

After dilly-dallying for three years, the Centre has rejected the recommendations of an expert panel headed by ecologist Madhav Gadgil for the protection and upkeep of the Western Ghats, one of the world's foremost biodiversity hot spots.

The government said it would go by the report of another expert committee, led by space scientist K Kasturirangan, which moved away from the tough stand taken by the Gadgil panel.

In an affidavit filed before the National Green Tribunal, the ministry of Environment and Forests said it did not wish to proceed with the Gadgil report.

The ministry will initiate actions in accordance with the Kasturirangan report, the NGT said in its order. The ministry also informed the NGT that it had published a draft notification in the Gazette of India, declaring ecologically sensitive areas in the Western Ghats, on March 10, 2014.

The final notification will be published after considering objections filed by the states.
Kerala and Maharashtra states raised the maximum number of objections. The March notification was preceded by another one in October 2013, giving in-principle approval to implement the Kasturirangan Committee report.

Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar on Tuesday said a ground survey of Ecologically Sensitive Areas (ESA) was being done in Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka, Goa and Maharashtra.

Since 2012, the NGT is hearing a petition filed by the Goa Foundation. On Monday, the tribunal headed by Justice Swatanter Kumar pulled up the environment ministry for not taking a stand on the Gadgil report, even three years after its submission.

In its 2013 report, Kasturirangan panel recommended not to have any commercial activity in 37 per cent areas, which comes to around 60,000 sq km.

The biodiversity rich landscape was described as “ecologically sensitive area (ESA)”, which the government notified later, ignoring protests from some states. Business and commercial activities were allowed in areas outside the ESA.

But for all activities, located 10 km outside the ESA zone, environmental sanction has to be given by the central government. “The 37 per cent (ESA) area cannot be further reduced if we want to protect the Western Ghats,” C R Babu, a member of the Kasturirangan panel, told Deccan Herald.

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