Special Correspondent

It will ask Government not to sanction major industrial projects in coastal districts till then

12 areas to be declared ‘biosphere hotspots’

These areas in the Western Ghats will be well demarcated

BANGALORE: The newly constituted Task Force on Western Ghats has decided to recommend to the State Government not to sanction major industrial projects or special economic zones in the coastal districts of Dakshina Kannada, Udupi and Uttara Kannada till the completion of a study on the industrial carrying capacity of these districts.

Such a study analyses the inter-relations among population, resources, environment and development.

Task force Chairman Anantha Hegde Ashisara on Tuesday told presspersons here that several mega-industrial projects in three coastal districts had damaged the ecology, destroyed forests and polluted river systems. The task force would rope in experts to conduct the study. The Government would be urged not to sanction new projects till the completion the study, which would also assess the damage caused to the environment by existing projects, he said.

Opposition from people

The people of Uttara Kannada have been opposing, on ecological grounds, the setting up of a 4,000-MW ultra mega power project at Tadadi by the Centre. “We will seek the opinion of the people in the region and submit a report to the Government on the impact of the newly proposed projects,” he said.

He stressed the need for convergence of various programmes of the Forest, Environment, Rural Development and Panchayat Raj and Water Resources departments for the protection of the Western Ghats, one of the world’s biodiversity hotspots.

Mr. Ashisara said various departments were implementing programmes to conserve the rich flora and fauna in the Western Ghats. Resources were not a constraint for conservation efforts. But funds needed to be utilised collectively by various departments. As the Western Ghats was spread over nine districts in the State, schemes to be taken up in each district would be finalised after coming up with an integrated conservation strategy based on ongoing and past studies on the region.

Mr. Ashisara, who has been part of several agitations to save the Western Ghats, said the State Government had attached great importance to the conservation of forest resources, particularly biodiversity in sensitive areas such as the Western Ghats.

Eco-tourism

The task force would identify areas of importance from the point of conserving biodiversity in established ‘devara kadu’ (sacred groves), rivers, tanks and hills and would promote eco-tourism in such areas.

He said the task force had decided to declare 12 places in the Western Ghats as ‘biosphere hotspots’ and clearly demarcate such spots.

The Western Ghats mountain range, which starts near the border between Gujarat and Maharashtra, extends approximately 1,600 km through Maharashtra, Goa, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala.

Forest cover

Asked about mining and encroachment of forest land in the region, Mr. Ashisara said forest cover had declined over the years because of faulty government policies. The task force would help the Government evolve a policy to regulate all activities that endanger the ecology of the Western Ghats, he said.

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