SUBJECT : Entire Western Ghats must be declared Eco Sensitive

Panaji, May 10, 2017: The notification of nearly 60,000 sqkm (37%) of the western Ghat area by central government as ecologically sensitive area (ESA) has raised apprehensions among activists, as they are wary of the remaining 63% being thrown open to unregulated growth.

The ministry of environment, forest and climate change (MoEF) has been dilly-dallying on declaring the protected area due to various reasons, including opposition from states regarding keeping ecosensitive areas out of bounds for industries and other activities.

"If the government thinks wisely of conserving the environment and ecology of western ghats, then it should be 100%," Kumar Kalanand Mani of Peaceful Society, a Marcaim-based NGO said.

The protection of the eco fragile areas of the global biodiversity hotspot can be meaningful if the flora, fauna, and local population is considered comprehensively. "But, we hope the move of notifying 37% is the beginning," he said.

The exclusion of 63% leaves it unmarked and makes it non-ESA. "This will immediately remove any existing ambiguity on the WG area, giving the go-ahead for all types of projects in the non-ESA area," Terence Jorge of EIA Resource and Response Centre (ERC), Goa, said.

The notification has to consider these facts and draw up a plan identification and marking, as well as regulation of activities in the non-ESA area. "Provision for adding new ESA areas has to be kept and hydro- power projects should not be allowed in the ESA," he said.

ERC is one of a few NGOs which have submitted their suggestions to MoEFCC regarding the notification.

The Centre has found it difficult to work out consensus on the issue, with various lobbies opposing the declaration of ESA. Goa government has also toed the line of other states, stating it has not much land for development in future. Madhav Gadgil, ecologist, who had recommended grading of Western Ghats into three zones said eco-sensitive zones, as a set of rigid prescriptions and administered in a high-handed fashion by bureaucracy, is not the right way.

"Biodiversity panels can also decide about type of nature conservation," he said.

Source: Times of India