The much-awaited demarcation of ecologically sensitive areas in the Western Ghats will take a while longer.
The Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel, which was to submit its final report on June 30, to the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF), has asked for more time because of some unfinished technical aspects.
“They (the panel) have asked for time till August 31, which has been granted,” said Jairam Ramesh, environment minister.
This is the third time that the panel has got an extension. The initial deadline for demarcating the ecologically sensitive zones was March 31, which then got extended to June 30.
“There is some technical work left and it may take less than a month. We want the report to be scientific with objective recommendations that will allow the public to review and question it as well,” said professor Madhav Gadgil, chairperson of the panel. “Previous recommendations have been subjective and arbitrary,” he added.
While the MoEF mandate was to identify 'go and no-go' areas in the Western Ghats, the panel has decided to grade the ecologically sensitive areas from highly sensitive zones to less sensitive ones. The nomenclature of the zones could be eco-sensitive core, ESZ1, ESZ2 and ESZ3.
“The panel will demarcate geographical boundaries on the basis of the slope, elevation and continuity of hilly tracts so that the boundaries will not be discontinuities,” said Gadgil. “The ministry will decide, which recommendations to notify.”
The panel is also proposing a Western Ghats Ecology Authority comprising state level committees that will have statutory powers to prepare development proposals for ecologically sensitive areas of respective states.