Environment minister Prakash Javadekar on Tuesday said that the Centre has asked six south and western Indian states to do a survey of the Western Ghats that will allow it to define eco-sensitive zones in the biodiversity-rich region, a move that could mean overriding previous recommendations of having a huge no-development zone.
The Centre took the decision after six states — Gujarat, Maharashtra, Goa, Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu — objected to the recommendations made by the Kasturirangan Panel and Gadgil Panel, both set up during the previous UPA regime.
“The two panels have relied on satellite data to identify the no-development zones. But, the survey will find the actual situation on the ground and on that basis we would take a decision,” said Javadekar at a conference to announce initiatives of the environment ministry on 100 days of the NDA government.
The ground survey is being done on the basis of Kasturirangan Panel set up by former environment minister Jayanthi Natarajan, which recommended that one-third of the hills should be declared no-development zone.
Natrajan’s predecessor Jairam Ramesh had constituted the Gadgil Panel, which suggested that almost the entire 1.8 lakh sq km Ghats should be declared a no-development zone to preserve its pristine ecology.
The states had opposed both the reports and the environment ministry agreed to their proposal to conduct a ground survey.
“We will address the issue through a democratic process... We have asked all six states to do ground work and submit a report,” the minister said.