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Trouble in the hills

Trouble in the hills

News:

  1. The monsoon floods in Kerala and Karnataka have revived the debate on whether political expediency trumped science.

Important facts:

2. In the past, the Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel issued recommendations for the preservation of the fragile western peninsular region.

3. Madhav Gadgil, who chaired the Union Environment Ministry’s WGEEP, has said the recent havoc in Kerala is a consequence of short-sighted policymaking

4. Issues involved in Western Ghats:

Calculation of what constitute the sensitive core and what activities can be carried out there.

  • Population estimation for the sensitive zones vary greatly, based on interpretations of the ESZs.
  • According to one expert, in Kerala, 39 lakh households are in the ESZs outlined by the WGEEP, but the figure drops sharply to four lakh households for a smaller area of zones identified by the Kasturirangan panel.

5. Suggestions:

  • Public consultation on export reports on the Western Ghats ecology needed.
  • The Western Ghats states must draw table on line with the reports of both the Gadgil Committee and the Kasturirangam Committee, which was set up to examine WGEEP report.
  • The goal has to be sustainable development for the Ghats as a whole.
  • The task before them is to initiate correctives to environmental policy decisions.
  • Need to balance human development pressures with stronger protection of the Western Ghats ecology.
  • Need to create regulatory framework that was proposed by the Gadgil panel, in the form of an apex Western Ghats Ecology Authority and the State-level units, under the Environment (Protection) Act.
  • Adopt zoning system that was proposed by above act. This can keep incompatible activities out of the Ecologically Sensitive Zones (ESZs).
  • A moratorium on quarrying and mining in the identified sensitive zones, in Kerala and also other States, is necessary to assess their environmental impact.
  • Need to review decisions affecting the environment, in the wake of the floods.
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