Panel for study on Western Ghats' carrying capacity

Central panel wants state to study Western Ghats' carrying capacity

A view of Western Ghats.

As the pressure on the Western Ghats never ceases due to the increasing number of infrastructure works in the biodiversity hotspot, the Regional Empowered Committee (REC) of the Ministry of Environment has suggested that the state government take up a study to understand what more the fragile hills can bear.

Linear projects like road construction and transmission lines as well as mini hydel projects have been blamed for the destruction caused in the Western Ghats even after the biological hotspot was recognised by the Unesco as a world heritage site. 

The REC of the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) noted that as the development projects could leave an impact on the biodiversity in the area, a study was necessary.

“A comprehensive study on the carrying capacity of such projects for the next 50 years in the Western Ghats region of Karnataka needs to be taken up,” the committee has said. To a question, Chairman of the Committee and Additional Director General of Forests (central) K P Singh said the suggestion was only a request which will help in prioritising the projects.

“As of now, each project is decided on a case-to-case basis. The committee felt that an informed decision could be made when we have a comprehensive understanding of the region’s carrying capacity. Hence, we are making a request to the state government for such a study,” he stated.

Efforts to conserve the fragile region have failed as governments have rejected the recommendations by two expert committees led by Madhav Gadgil and K Kasturirangan. The Western Ghats Task Force had also come out with a similar report. However, not much has changed with central agencies like Comptroller and Auditor General flagging serious lapse in maintaining the fragile region.

The CAG report in 2017 had cautioned about the large-scale fragmentation of the projects and impact on water flow (streams) in the region by mini-hydel projects (MHPs). “The government was silent with reference to the MHPs already existing, appropriate action needs to be taken wherever violations have been noticed,” it recommended.

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