Considering the flood disaster in Kerala, Delhi-based National Green Tribunal (NGT) has directed that no activity that will adversely impact eco-sensitive areas (ESA) in the Western Ghats will be permitted till the draft notification regarding conservation of the world biodiversity hotspot is finalised.
The principal bench of the NGT has also directed the Central Ministry of Environment and Forest to finalise notification of Ecologically Sensitive Areas (ESA) of Western Ghats within a period of six months, without making any alteration in the draft ESA notification published on February 278, 2017. The bench headed by Chairman Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel prohibited reduction in the ESA areas, observing that such reduction may seriously affect the environment, especially in the view of recent incidents in Kerala.
The order was passed in an application filed by Goa Foundation for the finalization of the draft ESA notification.
Eco-sensitive areas (ESA) were declared by the Union Ministry of environment, forest and climate change in a draft notification on February 27, 2017. Union ministry is awaiting the views on ESA from the various States. While many States raised objections, the views from Gujarat and Goa are yet to be received. So the notification has been pending finalising for more than a year and a half.
"In view of the fact that any alteration in the draft notification dated February 27, 2017, may seriously affect the environment and especially in view of recent incidents in Kerala, we direct that no changes be made to reduce the area of eco-sensitive zone in terms of notification dated February 27,2017, without the same being considered by this tribunal," the NGT bench observed.
Two expert committees have been appointed to study the eco-sensitive zone of the Western Ghats. While the Gadgil committee, led by environmentalist Madhav Gadgil, had proposed much larger areas to be included in the eco-sensitive zone of the Western Ghats, the Kasturirangan committee had reduced it.