Western Ghats Issue Dominates Headlines in 2013
Published: 30th December 2013 10:32 AM |
The issue of Western Ghats and row over implementation of a green report on it made headlines during 2013 in India, which at its fag end saw the controversial exit of Environment Minister Jayanthi Natarajan from the Union Council of ministers.
Petroleum Minister M Veerappa Moily took over additional charge of the Green Ministry. The surprise resignation triggered speculation whether her exit was related to the party work in view of the coming polls to the lower house of Parliament, Lok Sabha, or due to reported complaints from industry that her ministry was holding up environmental clearances to projects worth thousands of crores of rupees.
Taking over the reins of the Environment Ministry, Moily promised speedy decisions on clearances without compromising image of the green regulator.
"I am the one who is accustomed to dispose of the files by the evening. Not even a single file will be taken home and not even a single file will be pending unless it requires yet another (look)," the senior Minister said.
He also promised a review of a controversial report on Western Ghats which had earned Natarajan the wrath of political parties and religious groups from Kerala.
Environment Ministry had notified the report on Western Ghats prepared by K Kasturirangan-led panel which has recommended prohibition on development activities in 60,000 sq km ecologically sensitive area spread over six states including Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Goa, Maharashtra and Gujarat.
However, the ministry, stung by the protests in Congress- ruled states like Kerala and Maharashtra, had clarified that there was no ban on agriculture and plantations activities along the Western Ghats.
Kerala has demanded re-drawing of eco-sensitive areas as most of the green villages in the state identified by the panel were thickly populated.
The 10-member panel report distinguished between cultural and natural landscapes. It also recommended a complete ban on mining, quarrying, and sand mining in highly-sensitive areas.
India's 1600-km-long Western Ghats hills, which has got into the list of UNESCO's world heritage sites, was recognised as one of the world's eight "hottest hotspots" of biological diversity.
Another important highlight of the year was the UN Climate Change Conference in Warsaw in November ending with governments agreeing on a track towards a universal climate agreement in 2015.
In the context of 2015, countries met at the Polish capital and decided to initiate or intensify domestic preparation for their intended national contributions towards that agreement, which will come into force from 2020.
Countries also resolved to close the pre-2020 ambition gap by intensifying technical work and more frequent engagement of Environment Ministers.
At the conference, India strongly opposed the US and EU's stand on the issue of phasing out refrigerant gas Hydroflurocarbons HFCs at the high-level ministerial talks at the UN Climate Change summit.
India said that in view of the lack of safe, technologically viable, and economically feasible alternatives, the issue of HFCs needed further examination and status-quo should be maintained for the present.