Union Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar held a review meeting with State Environment and Forests Ministers here on Tuesday to review the progress of demarcation of Ecologically Sensitive Areas (ESA) in the Western Ghats region and discuss the further course of action in keeping with the recommendations of the 2013 Kasturirangan Committee report.
Mr. Javadekar said that as per the report, commercial mining and polluting industries would be strictly banned in areas identified as eco sensitive zones.
The meeting was attended by Environment Ministers of Karnataka, (Ramanath Rai) and Gujarat (Mannubhai Patel), and senior environment and forests department officials of Goa, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and Kerala. Mr. Javadekar said that earlier people were misled to believe that the Kasturirangan report would destroy the livelihood prospects of people living in the Western Ghats forest regions, but such rumours should not be believed. “Only in places demarcated as ecologically sensitive zones, commercial mining and polluting industries would not be started. Every State will be given full opportunity for development works and the Union Ministry is currently going through the proposals submitted by State Ministers,” he said, adding that since more than 4,000 villages fell in the proposed eco-sensitive zones, consultation with local population was on to seek their recommendation on the plan of action and the process would be completed by month-end.
The final notification on demarcation of eco-sensitive zones and mining and polluting industries to be banned would be available by August.‘No action on ground’
Renowned ecologist Madhav Gadgil, who had authored the earlier report on conserving the Western Ghats’ ecology, told The Hindu that though the need for a participatory process of decision-making regarding promotion of development projects in the Western Ghats region was proposed by him in his report, the ground reality was different.
He cited the recently submitted Justice M.B. Shah Commission report on illegal mining in Goa, which had exposed Rs. 35,000 crore worth illegal mining in the State. “Local communities bearing the brunt of such illegal mining activities have no say in addressing the issues on the ground,” he said.