A fierce, “outright” and almost unanimous “rejection” of the Kasturirangan report outlining a conservation strategy for the Western Ghats has virtually stalled the field review in the 10 districts that straddle the mountain range in the State, according to Chairman of the Review Committee R.M.N. Sahai.
District committees have been “under pressure” from local communities and political parties opposing the idea of Ecologically Sensitive Areas (ESAs), and have been unable to complete their socio-economic survey, Mr. Sahai told The Hindu. Recently, a DFO was attacked in Kodagu by a mob allegedly instigated by an MLA as the forest officer conducted a district review meeting.
“Besides Chamarajanagar all other districts have expressed serious concern about the ESA and have rejected it outright. In some cases, there is no question of even discussing the issue,” Mr. Sahai said. Until the district committees submit their reports, the State will not be able to send its comments to the Centre, he said.
The proposal to declare 20,668 sq.km of Karnataka’s Western Ghats as ESA has raised fears of relocation among local communities, although the report only recommends banning activities such as mining and thermal plants in these areas. The State had now sought a second extension of the deadline (originally set for August 9) to submit its review report to the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF), he added.
The concept of ESAs in the Western Ghats has been a contentious one from the start. Last year, the Kasturirangan report earmarked 59,940 sq.km (37 p.c.) of the Western Ghats as ESA. The MoEF outlined a draft notification based on this report on March 10, 2014, identifying a total of 56,825 sq.km in six States that straddle the Western Ghats. Karnataka represents the biggest chunk of the ESA.
Kasturirangan report: State to file appeal in SC seeking more time
Chief Minister Siddaramaiah, who concluded a two-day visit to the national capital, on Thursday said several MPs from Karnataka had taken exception to the report.
The Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) had asked the State government to submit its comments before December 15.
‘Detailed report sought’
Home Minister K.J. George told presspersons here on Thursday that the government had already given its comments in brief on the report. But, the Centre had sought a more detailed report.
The committee members, comprising Forest Department officials, had commenced public hearings in Western Ghat districts. Based on the public hearings, a detailed report would be submitted to the Centre, he said.
However, sources in the State Secretariat said that Chief Secretary Kaushik Mukherjee had written to the Centre seeking time till February 15 to give the government’s reply to the Centre.
The MoEF had written to the six States in the Western Ghats region seeking comments on the Kasturirangan report. So far, only Kerala has filed its objections.
The State government has constituted a Cabinet sub-committee and it has held five meetings so far to discuss the report.
Of Karnataka’s total geographical area of 1,91,791 sq. km, the Western Ghats taluks cover 44,448 sq. km, including 1,576 villages (identified as eco-sensitive areas).
On winter session
Mr. George said the law enforcement authorities would act tough if the Opposition BJP made an attempt to disturb law and order during the winter session, scheduled to commence in Belagavi on December 9.