NEW DELHI: With Tamil Nadu yet to submit report demarcating ecologically sensitive areas (ESA) falling in Western Ghats, the Centre has extended the draft notification issued September 4, 2015 recognising an area of 56,825 square kilometre spread across six States as the Western Ghats Ecologically Sensitive Area.
The Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change issued a draft notification on February 27, stating that in exercise of the powers conferred by section 3 of the Environment (Protection) Act, an identified area of 56,825 square kilometre which is spread across six States, namely, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Goa, Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu, as the Western Ghats Ecologically Sensitive Area .
The gazette notification furthers says “the Central Government convened a meeting with the Members of Parliament of the Western Ghats region on 11th August, 2016 and decided that the Draft Notification dated 4th September, 2015 would be the basis for further discussion to finalize it.”
The ministry was bound to issue a final notification by March 4, 2017, about 18 months from issuance of draft notification on September 4, 2015. With no consensus among states, the ministry has re-issued the previous draft notification that bans all red category of industry like mining, thermal power plants and other polluting industries.
Kerala government last month wrote to the Centre to exclude 886.7 sq km "non-forest land" from the area demarcated as Ecologically Fragile Land (EFL) under Kasturirangan report for preservation of the Western Ghats.
Western Ghats, which is one of the world’s eight mega hotspots of biological diversity, was also recognized as a UNESCO’s World Heritage Site in 2012.
In 2010, the environment ministry had constituted an expert panel headed by Professor Madhav Gadgil to identify ESAs in Western Ghats which submitted its report in 2011 suggesting dividing of entire Western Ghats in several ecologically sensitive zones.
It recommended that each zone has different level of prohibition on developmental activities and also recommended large scale measures to control environmental degradation. But as States governments opposed the move, a committee under Dr K Kasturirangan was formed which recommended declaring 37 percent (60,000 hectares) of Western Ghats as ecological sensitive areas. However, when State governments objected to recommendations of Kasturirangan report as well, MoEF favoured ground verification of all claims.