Panel says the extent of the Eco-Sensitive Zones should not be reduced in view of the Kerala floods.K. Murali KumarPanel says the extent of the Eco-Sensitive Zones should not be reduced in view of the Kerala floods.K. Murali Kumar

Curbs States from activities that may have adverse impact

The six Western Ghats States, including Kerala, have been restrained by the National Green Tribunal (NGT) from giving environmental clearance to activities that may adversely impact the eco-sensitive areas of the mountain ranges.

The panel directed that the extent of Eco-Sensitive Zones of Western Ghats, which was notified by the Central government earlier, should not be reduced in view of the recent floods in Kerala.

The Madhav Gadgil-led Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel (WGEEP) report had created a political furore in the State with most of the political parties and a section of the church opposing it.

The Tribunal Bench, in its order, noted that any alteration in the draft notification of zones may seriously affect the environment, especially in view of recent incidents in Kerala. It was on a petition filed by the Goa Foundation that the Bench issued the order. The Principal Bench of the panel, which permitted the Ministry of Environment Forest and Climate Change (MoEF and CC) to re-publish the draft notification on Eco-Sensitive Zones, which expired on August 26, ordered that the matter may be finalised within six months. It also ordered that the draft of the republished notification be placed on the record of the tribunal.

Pulled up for delay

The Bench was headed by NGT chairperson Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel and had Justice S.P. Wangdi, and Nagin Nanda, expert member, as its members.

Pulling up the ghats States for the delay in filing objections regarding the notification, the tribunal observed that the “delay on account of objections of States may not be conducive to the protection of the eco-sensitive areas” and the matter must be finalised at the earliest.

The WGEEP had earlier proposed “much larger areas for being included in the eco-sensitive zone” though the Kasturirangan-led High Level Working Group, also appointed by the MoEF and CC to look into the WGEEP report, had reduced it. The Ministry had accepted the Kasthurirangan report and issued the draft notifications on ecologically sensitive zones.

The Principal Bench of the tribunal, which noted that the ecology of the Western Ghats region was under serious stress, also highlighted the fact that Western Ghats region was one of the richest biodiversity areas which needed to be conserved.