Authority with members from six States will handle “myriad environmental implications”

The Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel has proposed a three-layer system — comprising the (WGEA) Western Ghats Ecology Authority (as the apex body), the State authorities and the district ecology committees — to address the environmental challenges of the Western Ghats. The Madhav Gadgil-led expert panel has proposed that the 24-member WGEA deal with the “myriad environmental implications in the Western Ghats.”

The Authority “shall be the apex multi-statal authority for regulation, management and planning of all activities impacting all categories of ecologically sensitive zones within the States of the Western Ghats, namely, Gujarat, Goa, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala, and shall be constituted under the relevant provisions of the Environment Protection Act,” it said.

The panel has proposed that either a “retired judge of the Supreme Court, preferably from the Western Ghats region, with proven integrity and sympathetic to the cause of conservation and pro-poor sustainable development” or an “eminent ecologist/conservation biologist of the Western Ghats region who has made substantial contribution to the conservation of the region in the last 25 years” be appointed chairman of the WGEA.

A conservation biologist, an environmental lawyer, an agricultural scientist, a landscape ecologist, a representative of a prominent tribal group on rotation from each State and a civil society representative from each State, who has contributed to the conservation of the Ghats, should be made members. The WGEA will also have an Additional Secretary of the Ministry of Environment and Forests and the chairmen of the Pollution Control Boards and the National Biodiversity Authority and a member of the Planning Commission.