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Preservation of Eastern Western Ghats

Topics Covered: Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment.

Preservation of Eastern, Western Ghats

What to study?

For Prelims: Western Ghats- Key geographical and environmental facts.

For Mains: Issues related to the conservation of the region, overview of Gadil and Kasturirangan committee reports.

Context: 6 States have expressed desire to expedite early notification of Ecologically Sensitive Area of Western Ghats.

These six states include Kerala, Karnataka, Goa, Maharashtra, Gujarat and Tamil Nadu.

Background:

The government had constituted a High Level Working Group under the Chairmanship of Dr. Kasturirangan to conserve and protect the biodiversity of Western Ghats while allowing for sustainable and inclusive development of the region.

The Committee had recommended that identified geographical areas falling in the six States of Kerala, Karnataka, Goa, Maharashtra, Gujarat and Tamil Nadu may be declared as Ecologically Sensitive Areas.

What are Eco-Sensitive Areas?

They are located within 10 kms around Protected Areas, National Parks and Wildlife Sanctuaries.

ESAs are notified by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) under Environment Protection Act 1986.

The basic aim is to regulate certain activities around National Parks and Wildlife Sanctuaries so as to minimise the negative impacts of such activities on the fragile ecosystem encompassing the protected areas.

Objectives of declaring areas as ESA:

  • To manage and regulate the activities around these areas with the intention of creating some kinds of ‘shock absorbers’.
  • To provide for a transition zone between the highly protected and relatively less protected areas.
  • To give effect to Section 3(2)(v) of the Environment Protection Act, 1986 which restricts the operation of industries or processes to be carries out in certain areas or to maintain certain safeguards to operate industries.

What did the Gadgil Committee say?

  1. It defined the boundaries of the Western Ghats for the purposes of ecological management.
  2. It proposed that this entire area be designated as ecologically sensitive area (ESA).
  3. Within this area, smaller regions were to be identified as ecologically sensitive zones (ESZ) I, II or III based on their existing condition and nature of threat.
  4. It proposed to divide the area into about 2,200 grids, of which 75 per cent would fall under ESZ I or II or under already existing protected areas such as wildlife sanctuaries or natural parks.
  5. The committee proposed a Western Ghats Ecology Authority to regulate these activities in the area.

Why was Kasturirangan Committee setup?

None of the six concerned states agreed with the recommendations of the Gadgil Committee, which submitted its report in August 2011.

  • In August 2012, then Environment Minister constituted a High-Level Working Group on Western Ghats under Kasturirangan to “examine” the Gadgil Committee report in a “holistic and multidisciplinary fashion in the light of responses received” from states, central ministries and others.
  • The Kasturirangan report seeks to bring just 37% of the Western Ghats under the Ecologically Sensitive Area (ESA) zones — down from the 64% suggested by the Gadgil report.

Recommendations of Kasturirangan Committee:

  1. A ban on mining, quarrying and sand mining.
  2. No new thermal power projects, but hydro power projects allowed with restrictions.
  3. A ban on new polluting industries.
  4. Building and construction projects up to 20,000 sq m was to be allowed but townships were to be banned.
  5. Forest diversion could be allowed with extra safeguards.

Importance of western ghats:

  • The Western Ghats is an extensive region spanning over six States. It is the home of many endangered plants and animals. It is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
  • It is one of the eight “hottest hot-spots” of biological diversity in the world.
  • According to UNESCO, the Western Ghats are older than the Himalayas. They influence Indian monsoon weather patterns by intercepting the rain-laden monsoon winds that sweep in from the south-west during late summer.

Eastern Ghats:

The Eastern Ghats run from the northern Odisha through Andhra Pradesh to Tamil Nadu in the south passing some parts of Karnataka.

They are eroded and cut through by four major rivers of peninsular India, viz. Godavari, Mahanadi, Krishna, and Kaveri.

Insta Link:

Prelims Link:

  1. Geographical extension of Eastern and Western ghats.
  2. Imports plant and animal species found in this region.
  3. Endemic species in the region.
  4. What are ESAs?
  5. What are ESZs?
  6. Differences between recommendations of the two committees.
  7. What is a World Heritage site?
  8. What are “hottest hot-spots” of biological diversity?
  9. Important rivers, passes and mountain ranges.
  10. Tallest peaks.

Mains Link:

Various committees have been formed to give recommendations on preservation of Western Ghats, but not a lot has happened on that front. Examine.

Sources: pib.