New draft policy to save Western Ghats

New draft policy to save Western Ghats

Signalling a major shift in its environment protection policy, the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government at the Centre proposes to issue a fresh ‘draft’ on saving the Western Ghats.

The Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) has written to all states indicating that the Centre is awaiting the objections and suggestions of the six states which are home to the Western Ghats forests, before “superseding” the March 10, 2014, notification on Western Ghats and Ecologically Sensitive Area (ESA) and issuing a fresh draft policy.
On June 6 last, the MoEF dispatched one such letter to the Karnataka government.

In the letter, the MoEF said that it was ready to give an extension of two months for the State to complete its physical verification and send a report to the Central government.
Addressed to Chief Secretary Kaushik Mukherjee, the letter also said:

“After this period, based on the proposals received from the state governments, including the proposal of the Kerala government which has already been received, the MoEF would issue a fresh draft notification in supersession of the earlier notification dated March 10, 2014, declaring ESA under Environment (Protection) Act, 1985, for seeking objections and suggestions of the stakeholders.”

Now, the State government is in the process of completing the physical verification of the already demarcated ESA in the seven affected districts of Uttara Kannada,
Chikkamagaluru, Kodagu, Hassan, Shivamogga, Dakshina Kannada and Udupi.

Stiff resistance

Amid stiff resistance from citizens and people’s representatives of Kodagu, the government is also awaiting the final report of the experts committee under Karnataka Biodiversity Board Chairman R N M Sahai.

It is said that the government will receive the report in the next one month or so.
It is said that the citizens of Kodagu, through their public representatives, have rejected the Western Ghats report and sought exemption of their district from the ESA. It is said that the Sahai committee had sought extension of time till February 2015, after which the State Government on December 4 wrote to the MoEF seeking an extension of two months.

The State Government justified the extension of time sought as other States like Gujarat, Maharashtra and Goa too were seeking more time to complete the physical verification of the ESA.

Earlier, in the Legislative Assembly, Visweshwar Hegde Kageri and Sunil Kumar of the BJP said December 15 was the last date for the government to submit its response. But the government has not made any preparations for filing its view even though people were agitating in the Ghat areas, they pointed out.

In the Legislative Council, Forest and Environment Minister Ramanath Rai said that the government was continuing with its physical verification of the ESA in the State. He reiterated that the government had sought time till February 2015 to complete the verification.

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