Karnataka throws a spanner in Western Ghats works

While most of the Western Ghats states seek a reduction in their Ecologically Sensitive Areas (ESA) marked in the draft notification, Karnataka wants to come out of the legal regime meant to protect the Western Ghats altogether

Karnataka has turned out to be the biggest stumbling block in finalising the central government’s long-pending draft notification on the Western Ghats that lapsed once again on Sunday, for the third time in a row.

While most of the Western Ghats states seek a reduction in their Ecologically Sensitive Areas (ESA) marked in the draft notification, Karnataka wants to come out of the legal regime meant to protect the Western Ghats altogether, Union environment ministry sources told DH.

Previously, Tamil Nadu was the most staunch opponent to the contentious notification, prepared on the basis of the K Kasturirangan Committee report. For nearly three years, Tamil Nadu didn’t submit the results of its ground survey, blocking the process to finalise the draft.

But once Tamil Nadu submitted its responses in 2017, Karnataka presented a fresh set of arguments opposing the notification, as the Siddaramaiah government didn’t want to be a part of the legal regime. A state Cabinet resolution, too, was passed in support of the move.

Since Western Ghats’ conservation is to happen on a contiguous patch of land, there is no way Karnataka can be left out if the biodiversity hotspot is to be protected.

Officials held a meeting with the states in April 2018 in which Karnataka was asked to review its decision after the Assembly polls when a new government was in place.

Environment Ministry sources said it was not known whether the H D Kumaraswamy government had initiated the review process.

The conservation of Western Ghats biodiversity is impossible without Karnataka, which owns the biggest area, according to the last draft notification published in the gazette on February 27, 2017. It records an area of 56,825 sq km which is to be declared as ESA zone and protected.

Karnataka owns the maximum area of 20,668 sq km followed by Maharashtra (17,340 sq km), Kerala (9,993 sq km), Tamil Nadu (6,914 sq km), Goa (1,461 sq km) and Gujarat (449 sq km).

After the mandatory 545 days, the notification lapsed on August 26, 2018. The ministry is in the process of issuing the notification for the fourth time. This assumes significance in the wake of heavy rain and landslides in Kerala and Karnataka that have left a trail of destruction.

The draft was published three times in the last five years, beginning with the first notification on March 10, 2014. Every time it lapsed because of lukewarm response from the six Western Ghats states.

The idea to conserve the Western Ghats first came from a scientific report prepared by a group of experts headed by ecologist and former IISc professor Madhav Gadgil. The Gadgil panel’s recommendations were not acceptable to any of the six states, leading to the formation of the Kasturirangan panel.

Won’t accept, says state

Meanwhile, the Karnataka government has yet again written to the Centre that it will not accept the recommendations of the Kasturirangan report. Instead, the government has said that it will extend all cooperation if the environment ministry sets up a committee to look into the concerns of the state.

Communicating the state’s stand, Dr Sandeep Dave, additional chief secretary, Forest, Ecology and Environment Department, had written to the Centre on August 16. The state, after holding public consultations across the Ghats region, disagreed with the recommendations of the Kasturirangan report.
 

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Karnataka throws a spanner in Western Ghats works

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