“It will only erode the authority of State’’
The creation of the Western Ghats Ecology Authority (WGEA) at the national level will be a gross assault on the powers of the State governments to administer ecologically sensitive areas located within their own geographical boundaries, Chief Minister Jayalalithaa has said.
In a letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, she said the creation of WGEA, as per the recommendations of the Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel (WGEEP), was against federal principles since it would only erode the authority of the State government and create an unnecessary layer of power in the name of conservation.
Saying that the Ministry of Environment and Forests had sought the views of the Tamil Nadu government on WGEEP’s report, Ms. Jayalalithaa said land was constitutionally a subject under the State list.
“Any attempt by the Government of India to assume powers to regulate policy with regard to land use, developmental activities under various sectors, powers to approve new projects and issue directions in the name of environment is uncalled for and can only be viewed as an encroachment on the sovereign powers of the State governments,” she said.
Tamil Nadu was a frontrunner in the field of nature and environmental conservation. “We have enacted and implemented very stringent and effective Acts and regulations for conservation in general and for the conservation of Hill Areas, including the Western Ghats, in particular. Further, the Hill Area Conservation Authority at the state level enforces the regulations on land use…it is relevant to point out here that the panel report contains no materials to make out any case for any shortcoming in the conservation of Western Ghats.”
Ms. Jayalalithaa pointed out that the State had three Tiger Reserves, three National Parks and eight Wildlife Sanctuaries located in the Western Ghats which were admirable models of ecological conservation.
Tamil Nadu had the distinction of having the lowest extent of forest area diverted to non-forest purposes, she said.