Bengaluru: Days before the Karnataka government was to submit its recommendations to the Centre on the demarcations of Ecologically-Sensitive Areas (ESA), the State has conveyed to the Centre that it has rejected Dr. K. Kasturirangan-led Committee Report that had suggested declaring 1,576 villages (in Karnataka) along the Western Ghats as ESA.
The Committee had recommended that if the villages come under ESA, it would promote conservation measures and at the same time restrict construction activities that involve landscape changes in such areas.
The move of the State government to reject the report is significant now as it comes at a time when Kodagu district and Kerala State, a part of Western Ghats, is ravaged by floods and landslides. Both Kasturirangan Committee and Madhav Gadgil Committee had recommended to the governments of Karnataka to stop environmental degradation by declaring vast swathes of land as ESA.
According to environmentalists, if the Madhav Gadgil and Kasturirangan Committee’s recommendations were fully implemented, Kodagu and Kerala would not have been damaged to this extent due to floods. The damage would have been minimal.
In his letter to C.K. Mishra, Secretary, Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) written on Aug. 16, Sandeep Dave, Additional Chief Secretary, Forest Ecology and Environment Department, has said that after extensive public consultations, it was decided to place their objections on the Kasturirangan Committee recommendations.
On April 11, 2018, the MoEF&CC officials had held a meeting in New Delhi where the Centre had sought the views of Karnataka, Kerala, Maharashtra, Goa, Gujarat and Tamil Nadu before Aug. 25 on the formation of ESA. Now the Karnataka government has informed the Centre that it has rejected the Kasturirangan Report.
In his letter to MoEF&CC, Sandeep Dave took exception to the demi-official letter enclosing the minutes of the meeting, which read: “The State government is requested to constitute a committee to look after the apprehensions and concerns of the State regarding the declaration of ESA of the Western Ghats region.”
Dave took exception stating that the Karnataka government has already “very clearly elucidated its position” on the matter and there was no need for a committee to be constituted. However, if the Centre were to form a committee, then the State Government would extend cooperation.
At the MoEF&CC meeting on April 11, the representative from Karnataka had said that a Committee would be constituted after the Assembly Elections to look at the concerns of the State Government for developing a coherent approach in declaring the ESA of Western Ghats region.
The representative argued that under different provisions of Reserve Forest, Protected Areas and Eco-Sensitive Zones, the State Government is already regulating about 22,000 sqkm of area in the Western Ghats region and as such, another layer of protection in the form of ESA may not be needed.