The Maharashtra government has rejected the Western Ghats expert ecology panel report, terming it as impractical, in its communication to the Centre.
The state government has objected to the classification of 43 of its talukas as Environmentally Sensitive Zone (ESZ) I, where no development other than agriculture will be allowed.
The state’s letter, approved by chief minister Prithviraj Chavan, went through a round of consultation with all senior state ministers, and was dashed off in February.
“We agree with the criteria for defining ESZ but those who authored the report have not gone by their own criteria,” said a senior official on condition of anonymity.
For instance, he pointed out that 50% of Karjat taluka can be classified as ESZ as per criteria, but the report has denotified the entire taluka as ESZ. The state has objected to covering of the entire administrative taluka under ESZ. It has recommended restricting ESZ areas as per the criteria and demarking it. In fact, ESZ-I is considered as a most sensitive environment zone.
The letter has also objected to having the Western Ghats authority as a regulatory authority.
“There are multiple authorities and having another one for projects in these areas will not serve any purpose,” the official added.
The letter has objected to the report's directive that no power project, including hydro and wind mill, should be allowed in these areas.
It has also objected to complete phasing out of existing mining leases in ESZ areas, saying this is not viable.
What the state is agreeable to includes no mines or other industries in wildlife corridors, 10km of protected forests and overall forested areas.
“The state welcomes reasonable restrictions like having no new mines in forested areas but we object to a complete ban on mining. This will lead to illegal mining,” said a senior minister.
The Western Ghats panel had been commissioned by the Centre to delineate environmentally sensitive zones, where development would be restricted across 1,600km of the Western Ghats spanning five states.
The Western Ghats are considered as one of the biodiversity hot spots in the globe.