The Centre will soon issue a fresh draft notification to declare the Western Ghats an eco-sensitive area, as a similar draft expired in August after states and the government failed to reach a consensus, Hindustan Times reported on Saturday.
This time, all but one of the six affected states seem to be on board, an unidentified ministry official told the newspaper. “Karnataka, however, is not agreeing with even the concept of ESA [eco-sensitive area,” the official was quoted as saying.
On September 4, the National Green Tribunal allowed the Ministry of Environment and Forests to republish the draft notification, which lapsed as four of the states that would be affected objected to it. Two others – Goa and Gujarat – did not respond. The first notification of 2014 had made 56,825 sq km of the Western Ghats in the six states – which also include Kerala, Karnataka, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu – eco-sensitive.
Declaring regions as eco-sensitive would prohibit various activities such as mining and setting up of polluting industries. The states that objected to the 2014 notification said this would affect economic development.
AK Mehta, additional secretary of the Ministry of Environment and Forests, told the Hindustan Times that the government would have a discussion with Karnataka on the matter.
Karnataka’s Forest Minister, Shankar R, said the state will not accept any restrictions through the notification as it will have “major impact on the state’s economy”. “There are already various legislations including the Forest Conservation Act 1980, which ensure protection of forests,” he said. “Why do we need one more legislation? All red category industries [heavily polluting industries] will be restricted in the Ghats, which will affect livelihoods.”
In the aftermath of the floods in Kerala in August, the National Green Tribunal said the Western Ghats were under stress and asked the six states not to give environmental clearance to activities harmful to the eco-sensitive regions, PTI reported.