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| Last Updated:: 24/03/2017

Centre rekindles dialogue on Ghats











Rekindling the process of consultations with state governments, the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) has written to all six Western Ghats states, asking them to submit their views on how much of the eco-sensitive area they want to retain in the ecologically fragile Ghats. Senior officials from the ministry confirmed that they have written to chief secretaries of all states.




The letter comes after the ministry republished the draft notification on Western Ghats earlier this month, that identifies 56,825 sq km as ecologically sensitive area (ESA) across Gujarat, Maharashtra, Goa, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala. The draft notification is based on the report of the K Kasturirangan led High-Level Working Group.




The republished draft notification reiterated the ban on all mining, new thermal plants, and the red category of severely polluting industries. It also said that hydropower projects will be allowed subject to specific conditions such as maintaining a minimum water flow in the rivers.




"We have sought their views once again as the draft notification was republished," said Amita Prasad, additional secretary, MoEF. Even as the states have sought a fresh round of views from the states, all of them, except Tamil Nadu, have already done ground truthing of the ESA's and submitted their reports to the ministry. DNA had reported in December 2015 in the ground truthing reports, Maharashtra, Kerala, Karnataka and Goa had rejected most findings and recommendations of the K Kasturirangan report, pushing for opening the Ghats to development and commercial activities.




In their ground truthing reports, prepared after reaching out to many of the Gram Sabhas across ESA's, the states told the Centre that they recommended retaining only 19,702 sq km as ESA and open up the remaining 36,285 sq km for development. "Tamil Nadu is the only one yet to send its ground truthing report. Even though others have sent in their reports earlier, we need to sit down and discuss their recommendations. If need be, we will also reach out to chief ministers soon," Prasad added.




The 1,600 km-long Western Ghats mountain chain is a UNESCO heritage site as it is home to hundreds of endemic animals and plants. It covers approximately 1,40,000 sq km.