The Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel (WGEEP) has slammed the Union environment ministry for withholding maps of eco-sensitive locations in various districts of the Western Ghats region that should not house new polluting industries.
In its yet-to-be released report, the panel, headed by ecologist Madhav Gadgil, has also criticised the Maharashtra government for violating the regional plans comprising land use priorities and valuable natural resources for Ratnagiri and Sindhudurg.
Hindustan Times accessed a copy of the report that was submitted to the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) in August 2011.
The panel has stated that the MoEF must “expeditiously” put all the maps – Zoning Atlases for Siting of Industries (ZASI) in the public domain.
Sponsored by the MoEF, the atlas maps existing pollution levels and suggests alternate locations for industries.
Stating that the MoEF has “suppressed” the atlases from being made public, the report mentioned that the ZASI reports for other Western Ghats districts have not been made available to WGEEP despite repeated requests. It said the Ratnagiri ZASI had not been released at all, and a copy was obtained after much effort.
With regard to the Ratnagiri ZASI, the panel said, “The Ratnagiri ZASI reveals that industries are being located without due regard to clear-cut prescriptions of ZASI.”
The state government refused to comment on the panel report. “The matter is subjudice because the WGEEP report has been submitted in the Bombay High Court by the MoEF,” said an official from the state’s environment department requesting anonymity.
The panel has reccommended settng up the Western Ghats Ecological Authority along with the Biological Diversity Management Committees.