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‘No new central panel to study Western Ghats issue’

‘No new central panel to study Western Ghats issue’

New Delhi: After a row over implementation of an expert committee report, the Centre has ruled out appointment of any more panel to study Western Ghats in an attempt to address concerns of the six states through which the ecologically-sensitive hills traverse.

Environment Minister M. Veerappa Moily said the states concerned should appoint committees respectively to assess the kind of activities that could be allowed in the tract. After the committees submit their reports, efforts will be made by the centre to find solutions.

“Concern of the state governments will have to be addressed,” Moily told PTI in an interview in New Delhi.

“There was one report made by (Madhav) Gadgil Committee. After that (K) Kasturirangan committee was appointed (to study it). ...No new committee at the central level. I think committees are not going to solve the problems. Many committees more problems,” Moily said.

His comments came against the backdrop of a major controversy created by the implementation of the Kasturirangan committee recommendations which was seen by locals as prohibiting even plantation activities in the Western Ghats.

The committee’s report was implemented during the tenure of Moily’s predecessor Jayanthi Natarajan, who was forced to issue a clarification, just a day before her sudden exit from the Ministry.

The 1600 km long Western Ghats pass through Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Goa, Maharashtra and Gujarat.

Moily said the states can appoint separate committees to study the issues of implementation of Kasturirangan panel report -- a watered down version of the orignial report submitted by a panel headed by eminent ecologist Madhav Gadgil.

“Kerala has already constituted a committee at state-level. I will be advising them (other states) to constitute a committee, if necessary... After that they can address to me, and I may also meet chief ministers. I am here to find solutions, not to create conflicts,” he said.

The Minister said he would write a “detailed letter (to chief ministers) illustrating some of the recommendations of the Kasturirangan committee asking their comment.”

Parties and farmers outfits in Kerala backed by religious bodies had staged violent street protests opposing the Centre’s decision to implement key suggestions of Kasturirangan panel report, alleging taht it would lead to large-scale displacement of settler farmers.

Stung by protests in Kerala, Environment Ministry last month clarified that there is no ban on agriculture and plantation activities along the Western Ghats.

At the same time, the Ministry has said that ban will continue on activities including red category industries, mining, quarrying, sand mining, thermal power plants, building and construction projects of 20,000 sq m area and above and township and area development projects with an area of 50 ha and above or with built up area of 1,50,000 sq m and above.

Just ahead of quitting the Ministry, Natarajan had said that the government has not gone back from its decision to implement the High Level Working Group report prepared by the 10-member panel headed by K Kasturirangan.

In its latest communication to the states, the ministry had said the recommendations also do not prohibit or restrict any normal activities relating to plantations, agriculture or any other activity except those which have been specifically prohibited or restricted in the ecologically sensitive area (ESA).

The Kasturirangan panel had identified 37 per cent of natural landscape of Western Ghats as ESA.


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