Kerala Government has submitted its objections regarding the Madhav Gadgil- headed Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel (WGEEP) report to the high-level working group constituted by the Ministry of Environment and Forests to formulate an action plan to implement the report.
The State Government submitted its objections regarding zonation, proposed Western Ghats Ecology Authority and recommendations on hydel projects in the WGEEP report, to the high-level working group, chaired by K Kasturirangan, member (science) Planning Commission.
‘’The geographical features of Kerala are distinct and dissimilar compared with the Western Ghat states of the Deccan Plateau, making it possible to divide the state vertically into three natural geographic divisions, the Western Ghats highlands, midlands and lowlands.
The zonation adopted by the WGEEP transcends the physiographic limits of the conventional Western Ghats and intrudes even into the entirely unrelated and peripheral coastal plains in the form of SEZ 3 grid,’’ said the response.
The State Government pointed out that the kind of zonation the WGEEP has recommended is not as mandated by the MoEF and also not as per the resolutions of the WGEEP itself in the matter of demarcation of areas within the Western Ghats to be notified as Ecologically Sensitive Areas under the Environment Protection Act.
No ground truthing had been carried out to check the reliability of the ecological sensitivity scores of each grid as demarcated and recommended by the panel.
‘’Of the 39 Western Ghat sites that gained global recognition for their outstanding universal value, Kerala accounts for 19, the highest for any single Western Ghat state. Out of these, 10 are in existing protected areas and 9 are either in reserve or interior forests. The activities are already regulated by existing statutes,’’ the State Government said.
Further, the State Government has pointed out that the World Heritage site status bestowed on the Western Ghats buttress the stand of the State Government that it is the traditional forested high ranges that deserves to be conserved as the Western Ghats of the state.
‘’The geographically distinct midlands and coastal plains need not be brought under the Western Ghats regions of the state for imposing unpractical and unwarranted conservation measures,’’ it said.
The State Government also had made it clear that it has very serious reservations regarding the setting up of Western Ghat Ecology Authority as a regulatory body for the Western Ghat regions.
‘’It will undermine established procedures, government business and violate the mandate of the environmental laws. It may be noted that ‘Environment’ is a central subject, but the regulations on issues fall within the purview of the Western Ghat states. The MoEF as the administrators of the environmental laws and WGEA as an additional regulator for some elevated areas and forests of the land will certainly lead to an awkward situation,’’ the government said.