NGT sets fresh deadline to complete Western Ghats ESA notification
The National Green Tribunal (NGT) on September 28 has set a fresh deadline of December 31 for the Union environment ministry to finalise the notification of eco-sensitive zones in the Western Ghats pending for eight years.
“There is a demand for more and more exclusion by those who claim the need for ‘development’ while need for ‘environment protection’ does not allow acceptance of such demands. This aspect needs to be finalised and has been pending consideration for the last about eight years,” said an NGT bench of Adarsh Kumar Goel, S P Wangdi and Nagin Nanda.
An environment ministry panel led by ecologist Madhav Gadgil in 2011 recommended that 129,037 sq km in the Western Ghats be notified as eco-sensitive and protected. But another K Kasturirangan-led panel reduced the proposed area for notification to 56,825 sq km. The concerned states now seek to reduce it further to 50,805 sq km.
The NGT said there is no justification for continued delay merely because the states have sought exclusion of areas from eco-sensitive zones. “Let the needful be done now before 31.12.2020. For any default thereafter, [the] direction to stop [the] salary of the Advisor, ESZ Division [Eco-Sensitive Zone], MoEFCC [Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change] will be operative,” the NGT bench said.
The bench was hearing a Goa Foundation petition against repeated delays in finalising the matter. The NGT earlier on August 24, 2018, directed that “no changes be made to reduce the area of Eco-Sensitive Zone without the same being considered by this Tribunal”.
The ministry has submitted that states have sought a reduction in the area to be demarcated as eco-sensitive as they are concerned about “prohibition of certain activities having implications on medical care, health care and education”.
“There is a concern of States about certain areas within [the] proposed notification that have since the time of submission of [the] Gadgil Committee report and HLWG, undergone demographic, infrastructural changes,” the ministry told the NGT.
A separate petition saying the Gadgil panel report be treated as final is pending before the Supreme Court.
The Centre set up the panel in 2009 saying the Western Ghats is a global biodiversity hotspot, and needed to be conserved. It formed another committee under K Kasturirangan following opposition from states to Gadgil panel’s recommendations.