The demand was made at a meeting of the environment ministry to discuss issues related to the protection of the Western Ghats
BJP member of Parliament (MP) from Mysore, Prathap Simha, has asked the government to let sand mining continue in his constituency. Speaking at a high-level meeting of the environment ministry, Simha reasoned that since sand mining is already practised illegally in the region, legalising it would bring some benefit to the locals.
The meeting, chaired by Union minister Prakash Javadekar, was convened to strike a balance between the recommendations of different committees on the extent of regulation in the Western Ghats.
MPs oppose inclusion of plantations in ESA rules
The government agreed with the MPs' demand that plantations located in Ecologically Sensitive Areas (ESA) in the Western Ghats must not be subject to the protection rules accorded to them. ESAs are a measure by the government to protect the bio-diverse Western Ghats while keeping in mind the development needs of the region.
In a statement to the media, Javadekar said, "MPs have expressed their opinion and the overall tone of their suggestion is that we must protect nature and the habitat of the people simultaneously. To do this, we can ban mining and the highly polluting industries. However, plantations, agriculture and the habituated area should be allowed."
Among those who opposed ESA protection for plantations were MPs from Kerala. They cited the example of cardamom farming and demanded that the minister come up with a "practical solution" so that livelihoods are not affected. They said that part of the problem was that the plantations are presently operated by the state's forest department and argued that they should be brought under the revenue department.
A total of 70 MPs, whose constituencies fall in the Western Ghats region, were invited to the meeting. Of these, only 24 turned up. While there were 14 MPs from Kerala, only one MP from Tamil Nadu attended. Javadekar informed that Kerala and Goa MPs have submitted ground reports on issues pertaining to the Western Ghats. "The reports of the other states are ready but we have not received them yet," he added.
The issue of a sustainable development model for the Western Ghats was also discussed. Javadekar said another meeting would be held next week to explore the issue.
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