The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has issued a notice to the union environment ministry seeking a reply on a plea against granting clearance to any new projects in the Western Ghats region until there is a decision on the recommendations of the Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel report.
The panel report chaired by ecologist Madhav Gadgil has recommended the classification of the entire Western Ghats region into eco-sensitive zone 1 (ESZ1), eco-sensitive zone 2 (ESZ2) and eco-sensitive zone 3 (ESZ3) and recommended that no activities must be permitted in the zone 1 and 2.
The plea filed by five non-government organisations (NGO) —Goa Foundation, Peaceful Society, Samaj Parivartana Samudaya (Karnataka), River Research Centre (Kerala) and Parisara Samrakshana Kendra (Karnataka) — also seeks to prevent government authorities from granting fresh approvals in Zones 1 and 2 that covers 97 talukas in 44 districts of six states.
“We filed a plea with the tribunal to avoid confusion because various NGOs may move their respective state courts if the ministry doesn’t accept the panel’s recommendations. Now that the tribunal has admitted our plea, the courts will not accept individual petitions,” said Claude Alvares, founder, Goa Foundation.
All these NGOs participated in the Western Ghats march held between 1987 and 1988 and have been fighting to conserve the rich ecosystem.
The tribunal has also issued notices to six state governments — Maharashtra, Karnataka, Goa, Kerala, Gujarat and Tamil Nadu — that fall under the Western Ghats region seeking replies on the plea for implementation of the report for the protection of Western Ghats.
In 2010, WGEEP was constituted to delineate ecologically sensitive zones in the Western Ghats and identify areas where development needs to be restricted to protect the environment. The panel submitted its report to the union environment ministry in August last year. Last week, the ministry uploaded the report on its website for public comments within 45 days.