Final ESA notification on Western Ghats should not be further delayed, says NGT court

Final ESA notification on Western Ghats should not be further delayed, says NGT court
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New Delhi: The National Green Tribunal (NGT) court has said that there should be no further delay in issuing the final notification on the eco-sensitive areas (ESA) of the Western Ghats. The court also ordered that if action was not taken before December 31, then the salary of the Ministry of Environment and Forests' advisor (eco-sensitive zone) should be stalled.

The NGT bench headed by Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel issued the order while considering a petition of the Goa Foundation.

"Demands have been raised to exclude regions from the ESA notification in the name of development. However, this is not acceptable. A final decision has to be made in the issue that has been pending for the last eight years," the NGT said.

The Ministry had informed the NGT that the notification would be finalised by last March 31. As per this, the draft notification will be deemed to be final from April 1, the NGT had said in its order on November 22.

Then the Ministry on March 30 extended the validity of the fourth draft notification issued on October 3, 2018, by 180 days. The fourth draft notification was issued as per the recommendations of the Kasturirangan committee.

But the Ministry on September 22 clarified that the time period between March 25 to May 31 would not be considered due to the COVID-19 lockdown.

However, the NGT said that even if the lockdown period was excluded, the decision cannot be delayed further because of the changes demanded by the state.

The NGT court's order said action must be taken and a report submitted. The case will be considered again on February 11.

The court order also mentions the affidavit filed by the Ministry on March 19. The main points:

• States are apprehensive whether the curbs would affect healthcare, education and other sectors.

• Ever since the Gadgil Committee report, states have been raising their concerns over population and basic facilities.

• States excluded certain areas from the ESA, and added other regions

• Kerala excluded 1337.24-sq-km from the 9993.7-sq-km notified as ESA. The remaining area is 8656.46-sq-km

• Karnataka wants the draft notification to be withdrawn.

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