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Centre to discuss Western Ghats issue with chief ministers of six states

Centre to discuss Western Ghats issue with chief ministers of six states

New Delhi: Centre has decided to convene a meeting of chief ministers from six states, through which the 1600-km-long Western Ghats traverses, to find a way to implement a controversial report on the ecologically sensitive hills.

Environment Minister M Veerappa Moily's decision came days after he directed the states- Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Goa, Maharashtra and Gujarat- to conduct a review of the High Level Working Group (HLWG) Report on Western Ghats prepared by a 10-member panel headed by K Kasturirangan.

The report had earned Moily's predecessor Jayanthi Natarajan the wrath of political and religious groups from Kerala who are up in arms against implementation of the conservation recommendations by the panel.

A highly-placed government source told PTI that the meeting of the chief ministers will be held in New Delhi after the Environment Ministry receives suggestions from the affected states.

Soon after he took charge as Environment Minister on Monday, Moily had assured Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy and Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan, who met him to complain against the report, that he would go ahead with the implementations only after taking notes of their views.

During their meeting, both Chandy and Chavan had apprised Moily about various issues pertaining to their states, including the electoral impact of the implementation of the report of the HLWG.

The ministry's move comes in the wake of protests in Kerala by political parties and religious groups against the implementation of the report.

Stung by the protests in the Congress-ruled state, Natarajan, before quitting the ministry last week, had clarified that there was no ban on agriculture and plantations activities along the Western Ghats.

The Kasturirangan panel had identified 37 per cent of natural landscape of Western Ghats as ecologically sensitive area.

A cluster of 39 sites consisting of rainforests, rivers and grasslands contain a high plant and animal diversity spread over 7953.15 sq km in the hills has been inscribed in the UNESCO World Heritage list.


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