It will be reviewed after a formal decision taken on Western Ghats reports

The moratorium on new mining and industrial activity in Sindhudurg and Ratnagiri districts of Maharashtra has been extended till August 31 and is unlikely to be lifted till the government takes a formal decision on the two Western Ghats reports.

The Environment Ministry extended the moratorium imposed in August 2010 on mining and other industrial activities in the two districts, which had been recorded as two of the most polluted zones across the country with rampant mining activity to blame.

While there has been pressure to lift the moratorium on the two districts, sources in the environment Ministry said a decision on this is likely to be taken when the government takes a comprehensive view on the two reports commissioned on the Western Ghats.

The government first set up the Western Ghats Ecology Experts Panel headed by National Advisory Council member Madhav Gadgil. The panel’s report was objected to strongly by the states as well as other groups while some groups of environmentalists supported it as vehemently. Consequently the government set up another committee headed by Planning Commission member K. Kasturirangan to review the report. The second panel of experts recommended that a complete ban through out the two districts be replaced away with restricted development activity in the demarcated Ecologically Sensitive Area of the two districts.

The Madhav Gadgil panel on Western Ghats had, in contrast, recommended that “the current moratorium on new environmental clearances for mining, and red and orange category polluting industries and power plants in the plains and coastal tracts of Ratnagiri and Sindhudurg districts should be extended till satisfactory completion of a Carrying Capacity analysis for these districts. The moratorium may then be reviewed in light of the findings of the study.”

The Environment Ministry has begun the process of taking a final call on the two reports. Sources in the Ministry said comments from various stakeholders on the second report were being compiled but early indications were that the government was inclined to go with the second report.