NEW DELHI: Despite home to a rich biodiversity, transformation of the landscape owing to high human population density might have "affected" the ecosystem of the Western Ghats, government today said.
"The Western Ghats is not only home to the rich biodiversity but also supports a population of approximately fifty million and also include areas of high human population density.
"The transformation of the landscape may have affected the ecosystems of the Western Ghats," Minister of State for Environment Prakash Javadekar said in a written reply in the Rajya Sabha.
He said that to protect the fragile eco-system of the Western Ghats, government has taken many measures. The Ministry has notified six ecologically sensitive zones (ESZ) in the Ghats to regulate certain identified developmental activities unless specifically prohibited in the respective notifications.
These include Purna Wildlife Sanctuary Gujarat ESZ, Vansda Wildlife Sanctuary Gujarat ESZ, Mahabaleshwar-Panchgani ESZ, Matheran ESZ and Dahanu Taluka ESZ in Maharashtra and Bandipur National Park ESZ in Karnataka.
He said the Ministry has issued directions under Section 5 of the Environment Protection Act 1986 on November 13, 2013 in which five categories of new or expansion projects which have maximum intervenionalist and damaging impacts on ecosystem shall not be considered for granting environmental clearance.
He said the Ministry has also issued a draft notification declaring ecologically sensitive area in Western Ghats under the Environment Protection Act, 1986 in the gazette dated March 10, 2014.
MoEF had constituted Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel under the chairmanship of Madhav Gadgil on March 4, 2010. Subsequently, the Ministry constituted a high-level working group under K Kasturirangan on August 17, 2012 to examine the Gadgil report in a holistic and multidiciplinary fashion.
The major recommendation of the high-level working group relate to identification of eco-sensitive areas in Western Ghat region, regulation and prohibition of certain activities in ESA and measures for incentivizing growth in the region, the House was told.