Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel (WGEEP):
- In the year 2010, Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel (WGEEP) was constituted by the Central Government, under the chairmanship of Madhav Gadgil.
- WGEEP issued recommendations for the preservation of the fragile western peninsular region.
Highlights of Gadgil Report
- Recommended that the entire stretch of the Western Ghats should be declared as Ecologically Sensitive Area (ESA).
- It recommended the division of region into three zones – ESZ1, ESZ2, ESZ3 and gave a broad outline of certain restrictions for each zone.
- The committee recommended the division of region into zones at the block/taluk level.
- It recommended that no new polluting industries (red and orange) were to be permitted in ESZ1 and ESZ2 and gradual phasing out of such existing industries by 2016. Complete ban on mining in ESZ1 and regulation of mining in ESZ-2.
- It was recommended that bottom to top approach be followed for conservation of Western Ghats.
- Western Ghats Ecological Authority was proposed to be set up as a statutory body and given powers under the Environment protection Act 1986.
Criticism of WGEEP:
There were many criticisms of the Gadgil Committee Report. Some among them were :
- The report was not prepared keeping in mind the ground realities. If the report is implemented, the development and the energy requirements in the states coming within the boundary of Western Ghats would be adversely affected.
- There is no need to set up a new body while there are many such bodies for the protection of environment.
Madhav Gadgil has said the recent havoc in Kerala is a consequence of short-sighted policymaking, and warned that Goa may also be in the line of nature’s fury.
Following severe resistance to the implementation of Gadgil Committee report, Kasturirangan Panel was set up in 2012 to advise the government on Gadgil Committee Report.
Highlights of Kasturirangan Report:
- Divide the Western Ghats into Natural Landscape and Cultural Landscape
- Of the natural landscape, it picked out 37% as “biologically rich” and with “some measure of contiguity”. Restrictions were placed in this area.
- It proposed the demarcation of ESZ be done at the village level.
- Only red category (heavy polluting) industries were restricted.
- Hydro power project would be given the green signal on a case to case basis, post assessment of its benefits and the possible damage it could cause.
Gadgil Vs Kasturirangan :
- Gadgil report laid too much importance to the environment, Kasturirangan report was biased towards development.
- Kasturi Rangan report was criticized by many as that it provided loopholes for mining, which if allowed would turn detrimental to the environment, in long-term will affect development too.
- Kasturirangan report got the tag as anti-environmental soon after its release.
- The WGEEP had earlier proposed “much larger areas for being included in the eco-sensitive zone” though the Kasturirangan panel had reduced it.
The Ministry had accepted the Kasthurirangan report and issued the draft notifications on ecologically sensitive zones.
- Now, the six Western Ghats States, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Goa, Maharashtra and Gujarat have been restrained by the NGT from giving environmental clearance to activities that may adversely impact the eco-sensitive areas of the mountain ranges.
- The panel directed that the extent of Eco-Sensitive Zones of Western Ghats, which was notified by the Central government earlier, should not be reduced, in view of the recent floods in Kerala.
- The Tribunal Bench, in its order, noted that any alteration in the draft notification of zones may seriously affect the environment.