Karnataka Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai informed the Centre that the state is opposed to the Kasturirangan Committee report on Western Ghats.
- The Western Ghats is spread across the states of Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Goa, Maharashtra and Gujarat.
- It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is one of the eight “hottest hot-spots” of biological diversity in the world.
- It hosts properties including national parks, wildlife sanctuaries ,world heritage sites, etc.
- It has over 7,402 species of flowering plants, 1,814 species of non-flowering plants, 139 mammal species, 508 bird species, 179 amphibian species, 6,000 insects species and 290 freshwater fish species.
- Thus, the demarcation of an ESA is an effort to protect the fragile eco-system from indiscriminate industrialisation, mining and unregulated development.
- Two committees – Gadgil and Kasturirangan – were appointed in the last eight years to identify the areas that needed to be kept out from such activities.
Recommendations of the Kasturirangan committee report
The Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel (WGEEP), also known as the Gadgil Commission has designated the entire hill range as an Ecologically Sensitive Area and classified the 142 taluks in the Western Ghats boundary into Ecologically Sensitive Zones (ESZ) 1, 2 and 3.
It suggested the formation of a Western Ghats Ecology Authority (WGEA), a statutory authority which enjoys the powers under the Environment (Protection) Act.
- The Kasturirangan committee report proposes 37% of the total area of Western Ghats, which is roughly 60,000 square kilometres, to be declared as eco-sensitive area (ESA).
- Out of this, 20,668 sq km of the area falls in Karnataka covering 1,576 villages.
- The report recommended a blanket ban on mining, quarrying, setting up of red category industries and thermal power projects.
- It stated that the impact of infrastructural projects on the forest and wildlife should be studied before permission is given for these activities.
- It also stated that the boundary of the 39 UNESCO Heritage sites are in most cases, boundaries of the legally demarcated national parks, wildlife sanctuaries, tiger reserves and forest divisions which are already accorded with high level of protection.
- The state of Karnataka has the highest percentage of the ESA- 46.50 %.
Reasons for Karnataka’s Rejections
- Environment vs Development– The state government believes that implementation of the report will halt the developmental activities in the region.
- Bommai said that declaring Western Ghats as ecologically sensitive zone would adversely affect the livelihood of people in the region.
- Ground reality– The Kasturirangan report has been prepared based on the satellite images, but the ground reality is different.
- People of the region have adopted agriculture and horticultural activities in an eco-friendly manner prioritising the environment protection as per the Forest Protection Act.