Kasturirangan Committee on Western Ghats

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    In News

    • The Kasturirangan Commission has sought to balance the two concerns of development and environment protection.

    Recent Discussions

    • Karnataka’s Chief Minister said that declaring Western Ghats as an ecologically sensitive zone would adversely affect the livelihood of people in the region. 
    • The experts called the state’s opposition disastrous for the ecologically fragile Western Ghats

    Image Courtesy: IE 

    Recommendations of Kasturirangan Committee

    • Western Ghats area under ESA: 
      • The Kasturirangan report seeks to bring just 37% of the Western Ghats under the Ecologically Sensitive Area (ESA) zones — down from the 64% suggested by the Gadgil report.
    • Prohibition on Development activities in the Area: 
      • It has recommended prohibition on development activities in a 60,000 sq. km ecologically sensitive area spread over Gujarat, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Goa, Kerala and Tamil Nadu.
        • Out of this, 20,668 sq km of the area falls in Karnataka covering 1,576 villages. 
    • Blanket ban: 
      • The report recommended a blanket ban on mining, quarrying, setting up of red category industries and thermal power projects. 
      • Although hydro power projects are allowed with few restrictions.
    • Impact assessment: 
      • It also stated that the impact of infrastructural projects on the forest and wildlife should be studied before permission is given for these activities. 
    • UNESCO heritage tag: 
      • It also stated that the UNESCO Heritage tag is an opportunity to build global and domestic recognition of the enormous natural wealth that exists in the Western Ghats. 
      • The 39 sites are located across the Western Ghats and distributed across the states: 
        • Kerala (19), 
        • Karnataka (10), 
        • Tamil Nadu (6) and 
        • Maharashtra (4). 
      • Boundaries of the sites: 
        • The boundary of the sites, are in most cases, boundaries of the legally demarcated national parks, wildlife sanctuaries, tiger reserves and forest divisions and therefore, already accorded with high level of protection. 
      • Mapping of ESA: 
        • The Eco-Sensitive Area mapping and demarcation done by the committee also indicates that all sites are within this area. 
        • The state governments should view this development and build a plan to protect, conserve and value the resources and opportunities of the region. 
        • The state of Karnataka has the highest percentage of the ESA- 46.50 per cent.

    Need for formation of Kasturirangan Committee

    • None of the six concerned states agreed with the recommendations of the Gadgil Committee, which submitted its report in August 2011.
    • In August 2012, then Environment Minister constituted a High-Level Working Group on Western Ghats under Kasturirangan to “examine” the Gadgil Committee report in a “holistic and multidisciplinary fashion in the light of responses received” from states, central ministries and others.

    Reason for rejection by Karnataka

    • Barrier to development: 
      • The state government believes that implementation of the report will halt the developmental activities in the region. 
      • Karnataka Government states that it has the distinction of being one of the states with extensive forest cover and the government has taken care to protect the biodiversity of Western Ghats.
    • Ground reality: 
      • The Kasturirangan report has been prepared based on the satellite images, but the ground reality is different. 
      • 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.
    • North Kannada protesting more: 
      • The political representatives from Uttara Kannada district have always opposed the Kasturirangan report since 600-plus villages will fall under the eco-sensitive area if the report is implemented.
    • Present Status:
      • While there is a growing concern over the forest encroachments in Karnataka, the state government has planned to further shrink the deemed forest area from 3,30,186.938 hectares to 2 lakh hectares. 

    Impact of Defaulting Execution of Report

    • There have been a lot of evident climatic changes like temperature increase, excess floods, droughts etc. such incidents will further increase.
    • These will affect the livelihood of people as a whole and in consequence hurt the economy of the nation.

    Way Ahead

    • It is prudent to conserve the fragile ecosystems that cost less compared to the situation prone to calamities than spending money /resources for restoration / rejuvenation.

    Source: IE