Govt has no proposal to reduce ESA in Western Ghats: Minister


Team Udayavani, Dec 22, 2018, 2:32 PM IST

New Delhi/ Bengaluru: The Environment Ministry has “no proposal” to reduce the Ecologically Sensitive Area (ESA) in the Western Ghats by about 6,000 square kilometres, the Lok Sabha was informed on Friday, December 21.

Minister of State for Environment Mahesh Sharma in a written reply also said there will be no displacement or dislocation of the locals living in habitations within the ESA demarcated in the Western Ghats and practising of agriculture and plantation activities shall also not be affected.

“The Environment Ministry has no proposal to reduce the ESA in the Western Ghats by about 6,000 square kilometres, i.e. from 56,000 square kilometres to about 50,000 square kilometres, extending over an area of 1,500 kilometres,” Sharma said.

He said the ministry had recently republished a fresh draft notification – fourth time to declare the ESA of the Western Ghats, with an ESA of 56,825 square kilometres, in Goa, Gujarat, Karnataka, Kerala, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu.

The republished draft is in accordance with the order of National Green Tribunal dated August 24 this year, he said.

After republishing the draft notification, the ministry had also issued letters seeking comments of the concerned state governments.

Earlier, the concerned state governments had undertaken physical verification for demarcation of the Ecologically Sensitive Area and proposed to alter the ESA of their states from the original recommendations of High-Level Working Group (HLWG).

As a result, the draft notifications were not finalised in the past, Sharma said.

Replying to another part of the question on whether the reduced ESA would adversely affect people’s lives in these states, Sharma said the Western Ghats not only harbours rich biodiversity but also support high human population density and therefore, there is a need to conserve and protect the unique biodiversity while allowing for sustainable and inclusive development of the region.

Asked whether the government is likely to put in place moratorium on setting up any polluting industry near the ESA, he said the report of HLWG was in principle accepted by the ministry.

“It recommends maintaining a balance between development and environment protection in the ESA of the Western Ghats region. The HLWG also recommended prohibition or regulation of identified projects and activities in the ESA, which have interventionist and destructive impacts on natural ecosystems,” he said.

Accordingly, the ministry had issued directions to respective state governments of the Western Ghats regions to prohibit five categories of new or expansion projects in the ESA.

They were mining, quarrying and sand mining, thermal power plants, building and construction projects of 20,000 square metre area and above, township and area development projects with an area of 50 hectares and above or with built-up area of 1,50,000 square meter and above and red category of industries, he added.

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