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Kasturirangan Panel Report on Western Ghats , Discuss

With taking into consideration continuous declining water storage and deterioration of water quality, if available, Ministry of Environment and Forest took into great attention the Western Ghats which was awarded with USESCO`s biodiversity hotspots as occupying widespread and diverse flora and fauna, and set up an expert panel in mar 2010 designating as Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel (WGEEP) with aim to strategize conservation programme of Western Ghats. This expert panel was being headed by a renowned environmentalist; Madhav Gadgil and that is why it is known as Gadgil commission. This panel submitted its 522-pages lengthy and complicated document in 30 Aug. 2011. In spite of being pro-farmer and having recommended decentralised approach to the local bodies, it had been condemned through protest by people and mining lobbies as it reported to have stringent ban on illegal and certified sand mining in ecological sensitive zone of 1,29,037 sq. km area. Following the public protest, government further instituted a working panel named as high-level working group (HLWG) comprising of chairman; former MP and then member of planning commission Dr. Krishnaswamy Kasturirangan and 9 other members, with aim to review and recommend suggestion on previous Gadgil commission's report. Although report presented by this commission was not pro-farmer, but it was a document practical one. Following are key points of Kasturirangan report –

  1. It has categorised only 37% of total area i.e. 1, 64,280 as ecologically sensitive area (ESA).
  2. Sand mining illegal mining and mining-on-lease all are strictly prohibited in ESA.
  3. The area which has already been allocated as mines should be phased out within 5 year or at end of lease-period whichever is earlier.
  4. Separated whole area into cultural( 58%of total; occupied by human settlements and agricultural field) and natural landscapes (90% of it is included in ESA)
  5. Construction of Thermal and Hydropower plants were not allowed here until detailed study of area has been accomplished.
  6. Red industries i.e. highly polluted, will not be allowed in area
  7. It has excluded inhabitation and plantation area from the purview of ESA.
  8. 123 villages have been kept under purview of ESA and 188 taluks under total landscapes.

Although this report was more pragmatic than previous one, yet it offered space for widespread criticism for its content. Following are the point of subjective criticism –

  1. Remote sensing technique for zonal demarcation
  2. Replacement of local bodies from bureaucracy
  3. Less emphasis on Environmental and Agricultural concern
  4. Uproar on misjudgement of ESA and its delineation

On comparison between Kasturirangan and Gadgil panel report it has been found out that Kasturirangan panel recognised area 35,243sq km more than that from Gadgil report. Second distinction is in demarcation of ESZ in which Kasturirangan panel categorized 37% of total landscapes in contrast to Gadgil panel which has categorised entire area as ecological sensitive zone and divided it into 3 zones on priority basis. In such, existing sanctuaries and 60% area designated as ESZ-1 is highest -priority area, whereas 25% area as ESZ-3 is lowest priority area where all developmental activities will be allowed with several precaution and balance 15% area falls under ESZ-2. In regard the total high-priority area, Kasturirangan reserves only 60,000sq km as against the 77, 000sq km reserved by Gadgil panel. Thus, Kasturirangan panel preserves 17,000 area for farming and agricultural practices. In conclusion, it can be said that Kasturirangan report had main emphasis on the coexistence of protective and developmental measures at tandem nearly, while Gadgil panel was completely anti-development and pro-farmer and eco-friendly. Over-restrictive approach of Gadgil panel led it to dump in halt. However, Kasturirangan panel considers interest of corporate and environment and farmer simultaneously. Moreover, Kasturirangan panel report is not as eco-friendly as Gadgil panel report. Government created one more committee naming as Oomen v. Oomen committee to review and recommend suggestion. But in my opinion, no result will be fielded out with appointment of committees unless their recommendation has been implemented. If objective is to protect the severally degraded western Ghats, then why do we not go for Gadgil panel which is more eco-friendly as far as pollution and water shortage in Western Ghats is concerned

Sumit Kumar Kawde

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