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Himalayan Watershed Needs a Body Like Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel

Written By Krishna on Saturday, June 09, 2012 | 8:47 PM

Note: The environmentally sensitive and much talked about 522 page Report of the Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel that was submitted to the Union Environment & Forests Ministry on 31 August 2011 is available at
following intervention by Central Information Commission and Delhi High Court. It is open for public comments for 45 days from May 23, 2012. Expert Panel was headed by National Advisory Council member, Prof. Madhav Gadgil.

Its a rare report. One must read at least 7 pages of this report from page no. 61-67 wherein Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel advocates a graded or layered approach, with regulatory as well as promotional measures appropriately fine-tuned to local ecological and social contexts within the broad framework of (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.

While it advocates this fine-tuning through a participatory process going down to gram sabhas, it has provided a broad set of guidelines as a starting point. It has attempted to arrive at such a set of broad guide-lines for the various sectors on the basis of extensive consultations with officials, experts, civil society groups and citizens at large. These proposed guidelines and summary recommendations for sector-wise activities are available in the report.

The preface of the report reads: "The Western Ghats are naturally an important focus of sustainable development efforts. The protector of the Indian peninsula, the mother of the Godavari, Krishna, Netravathi, Kaveri, Kunthi, Vaigai and a myriad other rivers, Kalidasa likens the Western Ghats to a charming maiden; Agastyamalai is her head, Annamalai and Nilgiri the breasts, her hips the broad ranges of Kanara and Goa, her legs the northern Sahyadris. Once the lady was adorned by a sari of rich green hues; today her mantle lies in shreds and tatters. It has been torn asunder by the greed of the elite and gnawed at by the poor, striving to eke out a subsistence. This is a great tragedy, for this hill range is the backbone of the ecology and economy of south India."

Stakeholders’ comments/views are invited on this report within 45 days from 23rd May, 2012 on the following emails: amit.love@nic.in, sv.godavarthi@nic.in.

The comments/views may also be sent by fax/mail to Dr. Amit Love, Deputy Director, Telephone: 011-24362827, Telefax:011-24364594
Email: amit.love@nic.in

The report refers to Goa's Regional Plan 2021 that took inputs from Gram Sabhas in deciding on land use policies.

This report merits the attention and comments of all the concerned citizens.

ToxicsWatch Alliance (TWA) holds that Ganga River Basin Authority has proven itself to be too weak to act, the Report of the Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel creates a compelling logic for a similar but a high powered panel on Himalayan Watershed to set matters right in the Ganga basin.

Gopal Krishna
ToxicsWatch Alliance (TWA)

Plan panel, green ministry spar over Western Ghats report

NEW DELHI: The environment ministry has been irked by the Planning Commission's attempt to start a parallel process on the review of the Western Ghats report, based on demands of state governments at a time when the ministry has just called for wider public consultations on the controversial report.

The member secretary of the Plan panel Sindhushree Khullar has written to the environment ministry demanding a roadmap on how the ministry intends to reconcile the strict recommendations of the report with the demands of the state governments for more industrialization and development in the biodiversity hotspot.

The member secretary has said that she would hold a meeting with the states and wants the environment ministry to make a presentation on its plans at the meeting.

A senior official in the ministry said, "How can the ministry now bypass the public consultations process which has begun and in a preemptory fashion decided a roadmap for implementation of the report in a way that the states alone demand?"

Set up under the chairmanship of National Advisory Council member Madhav Gadgil, the Western Ghats Ecology Experts Panel had recommended strict limits on development in the ecologically fragile Western Ghats zone, including indefinite moratorium on mining in large parts of the hills spread over several states including Maharashtra, Goa, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu.

The report, submitted in August 2011, was put on the backburner after affected states protested against the recommendations of the Gadgil panel and the ministry faced enough internal pressure from the Centre too.

But after the Delhi high court stood by the Central Information Commission and ordered the release of the report, the environment ministry put it out opening it to public consultations with all stakeholders, including state governments, for a 45 day period to take the issue further.

But even as the Gadgil panel results was opened to comments from public, the Plan panel stepped in, claiming that several states have written to it with their reservations. Attempting to play the mediator's role, it has asked the ministry to come up with a formula to reconcile 'development with ecology', even as the open consultation process remains incomplete.

The environment ministry, sources said, is yet to reply to the Planning Commission's demands.

The Times of India

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