Kerala seeks clarity on 'non-core' areas in Western Ghats

Western Ghats: Shutterstock

New Delhi: Kerala has urged the Central Ministry for Environment, Forest and Climate Change to define 'non-core' areas in the Western Ghats.

State Finance Minister K N Balagopal demanded clarity on 'non-core' areas, where relaxation in Western Ghats environmental protection regulations is applicable, during a meeting with Union Environment Minister Bhupender Yadav and others here on Saturday.

Balagopal asked the Centre to demarcate the Ecologically Sensitive Area (ESA) without unsettling the present population living in the region.

Kerala reiterated its demand for excluding 1,337.24 square kilometres from the ESA. Speaking to reporters after the meeting with the Union Minister, Balagopal said the Centre has taken a lenient stand in this regard.

Meanwhile, the validity of the fourth draft notification would expire on December 31. The National Green Tribunal's approval would be necessary to make changes in the draft before issuing the final notification. The Centre said that it would hold further meetings regarding Kerala's demand.

Minister Yadav had earlier said that the Centre was planning to issue the final notification before the expiry of the draft's validity.

Review panels

Kerala appointed Oommen V Oommen committee to review the Kasturirangan panel's recommendations since the latter had not physically visited the Western Ghats region in Kerala before demarcating 9,993.7 square kilometres as ESA.

Later, the State constituted another panel under P H Kurian for a more scientific appraisal of the Kasturirangan report. The Kurian committee found that the ESA would be confined to 92 villages spread over 8,656.4 square kilometres. Kerala had submitted the report to the Centre in 2018.

Presently, the discussions are progressing considering 8,656.4 square kilometres as core areas, and 1,337.24 square kilometres as non-core. Though the Centre has been orally maintaining that the expanse of non-core area will not be altered, Kerala demanded a concrete guarantee in the issue. The State government also felt that the ESA should be protected.

More talks with MPs, officials

The Central government informed that more talks would be held with MPs and officials in the coming days, and Union Minister V Muraleedharan would coordinate the discussions.

Expressing satisfaction over the meeting with the Centre, Balagopal said Kerala presented its views in detail. Additional Chief Secretary Dr V Venu also attended the meeting.

Three States attended the meeting, while. Goa, Gujarat and Maharashtra stayed away. Karnataka reiterated its opposition to implementing the Kasturirangan report, saying it would adversely affect the livelihood of people in the region.

Malayalam to protect the ghats

The term, 'Malayali', also means those residing in 'mala' (mountain), Finance Minister K N Balagopal said, adding that it is Kerala's need and approach to protecting the ghats.

Karnataka CM opposes declaring Western Ghats as eco-sensitive zone

Bengaluru: Karnataka Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai on Saturday opposed declaring the Western Ghats as an ecologically sensitive zone as it would adversely affect the livelihood of the people in the region.

Participating in a virtual meeting on implementation of the Kasturirangan report on the Western Ghats, chaired by Union Minister for Environment, Forest and Labour Bhupinder Yadav, Bommai strongly presented the state's stand.

"Declaring Western Ghats as an ecologically sensitive zone would adversely affect the livelihood of the people in the region. So the Karnataka government and the people living in the region are opposed to the implementation of the Kasturirangan report," Bommai said.

He drew the attention of the participants to the fact that the state cabinet had decided to oppose the Kasturirangan report.

The decision had been taken after exhaustive discussions with people of the Western Ghat region and officials.

Karnataka has the distinction of being one of the states with extensive forest cover and the state government has taken extreme care to protect the biodiversity of Western Ghats, Bommai said, adding that people of the region have adopted agriculture and horticultural activities in an eco-friendly manner.

"Priority has been accorded for environment protection under the Forest Protection Act. In this background bringing one more law that would affect the livelihood of the local people is not appropriate," he said.

The Kasturirangan report has been prepared based on the satellite images, but the ground reality is different, Bommai claimed.

Yadav assured the state that officers from the Union Environment and Forests Department would visit the state before taking any decision, the chief minister's office said in a statement.

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