So far, only Shivamogga district, among the 11 districts nestled in the Western Ghats in the State, has completed its field-level verification survey and the task of eliciting feedback from the public.
The district administration of Shivamogga recently submitted its report to an expert committee headed by Karnataka Biodiversity Board Chairman RNM Sahai.
The State has recently written to the Centre for extension of time till February 2015 to submit its recommendations. A response from the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) is awaited.
The expert committee had been constituted to compile field-level reports from the 11 districts in the Western Ghats including Shivamogga, Uttara Kannada, Chikkamagaluru, Kodagu, Hassan, Dakshina Kannada and Udupi among others.
A High-Level Working Group headed by Planning Commission member K Kasturirangan had earmarked 20,668 sq kms (which includes 1,580 villages) in the Western Ghats in the State as Ecologically Sensitive Areas (ESA) in a draft notification issued by MoEF, last year.
Public representatives and local population have been opposing the implementation of the report fearing that it would hamper their livelihood and the development in the region.
Once the final notification is issued by the MoEF, the identified zone will be a “no-go area” for activities like mining, stone quarrying, construction activities and setting up of industries.
“We have received the field-level verification survey report from Shivamogga and have been told that the Uttara Kannada district administration would be sending its report soon. We cannot submit our recommendations to the State until we receive reports from all districts,” Sahai told Deccan Herald.
He said member-secretary of the panel had written to the deputy commissioners to expedite the process of completing the field-level verification report and public hearings.
In Shivamogga only 42 of the 464 villages have accepted the recommendations of the Kasturirangan report. The remaining villages have refused to accept the report expressing apprehensions that they will have to vacate their villages, if not now, at least in the long run, the Biodiversity Board Chairman said.
Sources in the State government expressed confidence that MoEF will give its consent for extension of time to submit its response as four other states in the Western Ghats range – Goa, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and Gujarat – have made similar requests.
Kerala is the only state to have submitted its responses to the Centre.