Western Ghats: Moily agrees to reduce area of eco-senstitive zone in Kerala

Plantations, habitations and agriculture land included by Kasturirangan panel in ESZ area will not be notified; decision announced a day before elections declared

By Kumar Sambhav Shrivastava
Last Updated: Thursday 17 September 2015

western ghatsBowing to pressure from the Kerala government, the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) has decided to reduce the area of the ecologically sensitive zone (ESZ) in the Western Ghats. MoEF had earlier accepted the recommendations of a high-level working group to declare over one-third of the Western Ghats as ecologically sensitive to protect the region from mining and other industrial projects. But it modified its decision just a day before the general election dates were announced and the model code of conduct came into force. On March 4, the government announced that more than 3,100 square kilometre of “agriculture land, plantations and habitations” in Kerala will be omitted from the ESZ notification.

Click to enlargeThe Western Ghats, which extend from Gujarat in the north-west to Tamil Nadu in the south, covering an area of over 164,000 sq km, have been identified as one of the world’s eight richest biodiversity hot spots. The mountain range also received the UNESCO World Heritage Site tag last year.

A high-level working group of the environment ministry, headed by Planning Commission member K Kasturirangan, was formed by the ministry in August 2012 to suggest measures to protect the ecological sanctity of the Western Ghats. In April last year, the committee had recommended that 37 per cent area of the Western Ghats, which represents a band of contiguous vegetation and is extremely rich in biodiversity, should be declared as eco-sensitive. It also suggested that no new projects or expansion of projects related to mining, quarrying, thermal power plants and highly polluting industries should be allowed in ESA.

Door open for further modifications in ESZ

In October, the ministry, after taking into consideration the suggestions and objections by various stakeholders, including the state governments, agreed “in principle” with the recommendations of the panel. The ministry's decision to accept the Kasturirangan report was met with widespread protests in the states where people feared that their rights and livelihood will be affected by the ESA notification despite the ministry clarifying that the ESA notification will not affect land ownership rights of people and agriculture, horticulture and plantation practices will continue.

The Congress-led Kerala government however actively kept lobbying with MoEF and Moily, who took charge of the ministry in December last year, to reduce the area falling under ESZ in the state. While the Kasturirangan Committee identified 13,108 sq km in Kerala as ESZ, an expert committee constituted by the state to assess the impact of the committee's recommendation on its people argued that only 9,993.7 sq km area should be kept under ESZ. While the ministry is yet to issue a draft notification of ESZ, it said on March 4 that it has accepted the recommendation of the Kerala government. It also left itself open to modify the boundaries of the proposed ESZ in other Western Ghats state as well if the states make suggestions and objections based on the field verifications as done by Kerala.

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  • Sometimes It Becomes

    Sometimes It Becomes Difficult to have Trade Off Between Economy and Nature. But it is always sad to see a bad politics behind it.

    Posted by: Anonymous | 6 years ago | Reply
  • Why GadGil Report should be

    Why GadGil Report should be backed by working class
    - Anoop Varghese Kuriappuram
    It is canards and lies raining about western ghats conservation efforts. while kasturi rangan report which has taken an approach of exclusion, instead of participation does not deserve a second look, Gadgill report should be backed due to itÔÇÖs participatory approach and scientific basis on which data is collected and synthesized. In this article effort is made to address the peopleÔÇÖs participation part on which maximum rumors are spread. The communal and political forces except BJP and certain environmentalist have rallied belligerently against Gadgill report. There were incidents of government office attacks and rioting. Working class movement, which should stand by the scientific report, is seen as rallying behind communal lead forces for mere 30 cents of vote. LDF who is the principle opposition front seem to in the shackles of quarrying and resort/construction mafia. There is a situation where no body speaks about facts and everybody whips up emotions. It is commendable that Kerala Sasthra Sahithya Parishtah(KSSP) is supporting Gadgill report and is doing campaign in meagre means of itÔÇÖs own.Below are the canards floating around.
    1. People will be evicted
    2. Proposals anti farmer.
    3. People will not have a control in Zonation
    4. Conservation excludes people
    5. No Development will take place.
    There is no mention of evicting people anywhere in the report. Infact there are pro guidelines to close down polluting industries and not permitting quarries etc.It is also nature and farmer friendly by disallowing pesticides and chemical fertilisers in a time bound manner. It is evident from experience of north indian farmers that repeated use of chemical fertilizers will be destructive for agriculture. Report infact promotes use of sustainable practices in agriculture and asks government to reward the same.
    Below is the excerpt from Gadgill report which captures in a nut shell the guidelines of zonation. Zonation is required to be notified by ministry which people have the ultimate control.
    In GadGill report , From summary of report
    ÔÇ£On the basis of careful and extensive compilation of information, and wide-ranging field visits, consultations and analysis, the Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel (WGEEP) has designated the entire Western Ghats as an Ecologically Sensitive Area (ESA) and, assigned three levels of Ecological Sensitivity to different regions of it. These are termed as Ecologically Sensitive Zone 1 (ESZ1), Ecologically Sensitive Zone 2 (ESZ2) and Ecologically Sensitive Zone 3 (ESZ3).ÔÇØ
    Thus it is false to spread that this committee has decided on final list and it is beyond peopleÔÇÖs audit or intervention.
    Many of the conservation efforts in india fail miserabley due to two reasons , one is capitalist greed and another is lack convinced people. Conservation should not scuttle livelihood and thus should include people in its approach. When people become a central piece in conservation puzzle, we can be assured that things will happen properly. An earlier success in Attappady (AHADS) is a case in point.
    Below are the excerpts from GadGill report, which mandates to take pro people route in conservation.
    In Gadgill report Page 35
    ÔÇ£It is now widely accepted that development plans should not be cast in a rigid framework, but ought to be tailored to prevalent locality and time-specific conditions with full participation of local communities, a process that has been termed adaptive co-management. What should be ÔÇÿgoÔÇÖ and what should be ÔÇÿno goÔÇÖ development options ought then to be decided on a case-by-case basis, in tune with the specific environmental and socio-economic context, and aspirations of the local communities. Such a system of adaptive co-management would marry conservation to development, and not treat them as separate, incompatible objectives.ÔÇØ
    Another Lie is development will not take place, if this report is implemented.It is totally wrong. People can decide their development needs as shown in below excerpt ( by participation in gram sabhaÔÇÖs )
    In GadGill report 255 ÔÇô participation
    ÔÇ£As per the recommendations of the Panel, the Western Ghats has been zoned into (1) Regions of highest sensitivity or Ecologically Sensitive Zone 1 (ESZ1), (2) Regions of high sensitivity or ESZ2, and the (3) Regions of moderate sensitivity or ESZ3. In these zones, the Panel recommends that development activity needs to be decided through a participatory process involving the gram sabhas.ÔÇØ
    By Above short narrations, it is totally evident that Gad Gill Report is democratic and pro worker and farmer.Working class must realize that an environment degradation will affect them maximum as they are without means of wealth production and cushions against any environmental disaster. There may be view that short term employment in resorts or quaries will not be available, but it is for greater good of the future called green environment friendly life. Capitalists and Communal forces has for now succeeded in keeping working class as the human shield on their attack against environment. But let us understand this historical mistake and correct them as we have done in ÔÇ£Save Silent ValleyÔÇØ campaign when Com.EMS was at helm of affairs.

    Posted by: Anonymous | 6 years ago | Reply