Alarmed by Kerala floods, NGT bars further reduction in Western Ghats ESAs
The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has barred further reduction in eco-sensitive area (ESA) of Western Ghats in view of devastating floods in Kerala, which experts had blamed it on the ecological damage done to the Ghats.
The NGT asked the environment ministry not to reduce eco-sensitive area (ESA) of Western Ghats further from the proposed 56,825 sq kms and to notify the same within six months.
Hearing a petition filed by Goa Foundation, the principal bench of the tribunal in Delhi said that there should not be any further reduction in the ESA as demarcated in a draft notification issued by the ministry of environment forests and climate change in February.
The bench headed by NGT chairperson justice (retd) Adarsh Kumar Goel said any reduction, if sought, would have to be vetted by the tribunal first.
“Any alteration in the draft notification dated 27.02.2017 may seriously affect the environment and especially, in view of recent incidents in Kerala, we direct that no changes be made to reduce the area of Eco-Sensitive Zone in terms of notification dated 27.02.2017, without the same being considered by this tribunal,” the bench ruled.
The draft notification had identified area of 56,825 square kilometres spread across six states — Gujarat, Maharashtra, Goa, Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu — as the Western Ghats Ecologically Sensitive Area. This is slightly less than the 59,940 sq kms recommended by a committee headed by former ISRO chief K Kasturirangan in 2013.
Madhav Gadgil, who had blamed damage to Western Ghat ecology for the floods, had in 2010 recommended that 75% of the ghats be declared as ESA which Kasturirangan brought down to 37% after consulting the six state governments.
The draft ESA had banned mining, setting up of thermal power plants and other red category industries as classified by the Central Pollution Control Boards in the ESAs. It also had recommended state level and national level monitoring bodies to ensure the eco-sensitive zone remained inviolate from ecologically damaging activities.
As most states had not responded to the draft, the Goa Foundation had petitioned the tribunal for the various reports on Western Ghats. Karnataka had objected to the regulatory mechanism proposed in the draft.
The ESA for Western Ghats was first notified in 2010.