Environmentalists slam govt over its stand on Western Ghats

Updated on Jul 20, 2022 12:21 AM IST

The union ministry of environment, forests and climate change (MoEF&CC) on July 6 had issued a notification in which it had proposed to demarcate large parts of Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Gujarat, Maharashtra and other states as ESZ.

Environmentalists and a section of locals in Western Ghats belt of Karnataka have slammed the state government for rejecting the draft rules on creating an eco-sensitive zone (ESZ) that will cover over 20,000 km in the state alone. (HT)
Environmentalists and a section of locals in Western Ghats belt of Karnataka have slammed the state government for rejecting the draft rules on creating an eco-sensitive zone (ESZ) that will cover over 20,000 km in the state alone. (HT)
BySharan Poovanna, Bengaluru

Environmentalists and a section of locals in Western Ghats belt of Karnataka have slammed the state government for rejecting the draft rules on creating an eco-sensitive zone (ESZ) that will cover over 20,000 km in the state alone.

“How often have so many of our MLAs and MLCs met and discussed protecting our forests and biodiversity? Not once. Instead of saving our forests and all its goodness, they flock together like vultures and devour what precious little is left of our fragile ecosystem,” said Joseph Hoover, a wildlife activist and environmentalist.

The environmentalists said the eco-sensitive zone would have protected interest of farmers as there will be restrictions on unregulated building of resorts, hotels, mining projects and other developmental projects.

The statements come a day after the Karnataka government said it will contest the draft rules legally and take a decision in the cabinet meeting on July 22.

The union ministry of environment, forests and climate change (MoEF&CC) on July 6 had issued a notification in which it had proposed to demarcate large parts of Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Gujarat, Maharashtra and other states as ESZ.

Over 20,600 sq km of the total 60,000 sq km of the Western Ghats falls in Karnataka and is home to hundreds of species of animals and other living creatures.

Karnataka chief minister Basvaraj Bommai on December 4 refused to go ahead with the Kasturirangan committee report which proposes that around 37% of total area to be declared as ESZ.

The Western Ghats, a chain of mountains that run parallel to India’s western coast, traverses through Gujarat, Maharashtra, Goa, Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu and is around 1.4 lakh sq km and a 1,600 km stretch.

“The setting up of industries and manufacturing can be done in places like Raichur and northern parts of Karnataka where there is water and availability of flat lands. In this belt, they use machines to clear trees, forests and create flatlands which are prone to landslides and other catastrophes,” said Anup B, a software engineer from Ajjarkad in Udupi.

The heavy rains in the region adds to problems of regular commercial activity at least for two to three months in a year while the same acts as an attraction for resorts and hotels built in fragile areas, adding to the possibility of human-animal conflict and destruction of forest cover.

To be sure, all other states had earlier rejected the Madhav Gadgil report in 2010, calling it “anti-agrarian”, necessitating the setting up of another committee under Dr Kasturirangan, which experts said, was a “diluted” version that tried to find a balance in saving livelihoods as well as the rapidly denigrating ecology.

“We have and will protect our forests. There are thousands of acres of coffee plantations and there is no scientific way of demarcating borders of the ESZ or its buffer zone,” Vijay Kumar, the chief convenor of the Kasturirangan Varadhi Virodhi Horata Samithi, an organisation fighting against the draft report.

He said the committee (from the union government) should have consulted all elected representatives before making these rules but have instead relied on satellite images that would in effect take away their lives, property and livelihoods.

He even alleged that there were “anti-national” organisations (NGOs) who were spearheading the campaign to stunt developmental activities in the region.

KG Bopaiah, former Karnataka assembly speaker and BJP legislator from Virajpet in Kodagu district, told HT: “They have made concessions in Kerala and we will also make similar provisions to safeguard forests in our state. These regulations will hurt us and the economy badly.”

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