State rejects Western Ghats panel report

K.S. Sudhi
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The Kerala government has rejected the Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel (WGEEP) proposals and urged the Union government to “do away with the Western Ghats Ecology Authority (WGEA).”

The State has requested the Union government not to “burden it with another regulatory authority, seriously diminishing the scanty land area of the land-starved State having very high density of population.”

Writes to Centre

The views of the State government on the Madhav Gadgil-led panel report were made known in a letter to the Ministry of Environment and Forests.

The panel, appointed by the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests during the tenure of Jairam Ramesh as its Minister, had classified the ghats into three ecologically sensitive zones (ESZones) based on their ecological significance.

It had prescribed the structure, functions, and responsibilities of the authority for regulating activities in the zones.

“The proposed zoning uniformly applicable for all the six Western Ghats States is detrimental to the interests of the State. Though the exact boundaries of each zone have not been fixed by the panel, the tentative recommendations would make development or even human activities unable in certain areas where the width of the land is less,” the letter said.

The “zoning suggested in the report is totally faulty and unreliable as accepted by the authors. Some taluks and some areas are dragged into zones without any basis. Therefore, the recommendation on demarcation of ESZones cannot be accepted as such,” it argued.

Listing the 20 pieces of forest, revenue, water resources, and Central legislation that were in play in the State, the State government said these took good care of Western Ghats conservation as intended under the proposed WGEA.

Reposing its faith in the people of Kerala, the State government said the environmentally sensitive people of the State were its watchdogs for protecting its environment.

If more laws were required to protect the environment, it should be left to the State government, under the federal structure of the country, it said.

WGEA opposed

Arguing against the formation of the WGEA, the State said the authority “is proposed to be a regulatory body under the Environment (Protection) Act. But all the above pieces of legislation authorise appropriate authorities (not being the WGEA) for implementation.

The WGEA would be extra legal to that extent. Therefore, an additional authority would be redundant.”

If at all an authority was to be formed, Kerala should be left out as it was geographically, environmentally, demographically and culturally different from other States sharing the Western Ghats, the State said.

The State contended that “though there is no difference of opinion that the Western Ghats with its ecological elements have to be protected and preserved at all costs, the land areas next to the Ghats which do not directly influence the ecology or environment of the Ghats need not be put under strenuous regulations as in the Ghats region.”

Uniform norms

The State argued that uniform norms and standards prescribed for the ghats could not be made applicable to Kerala considering the scarce availability of land for development.

“If the recommendations of the panel are implemented, the land available for development activities in the State would become scarce,” it said.



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