Central Govt extends date to notify new rules to conserve Western Ghats
- The Central Government has extended the deadline to notify the new rules under the Environment Protection Act 1986.
- The date has been extended to June 30, 2022, from December 31, 2021, over difficulties in consultations due to the coronavirus pandemic. Prior, the deadline was December 31, 2021.
- These amended rules relate to the conservation of ecologically sensitive Western Ghat areas.
- The rules apply to prohibition or restrictions imposed by the government on the location of industries or the carrying on of processes and operations in an area.
- This is aimed at preventing damage to the ecological balance in the Western Ghats.
The Western Ghats
- Older than the Himalayas, the Western Ghats is an internationally recognized region of immense global importance for the conservation of biological diversity.
- It contains areas of high geological, cultural, and aesthetic values.
- It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is one of the eight biodiversity hotspots in the world.
- A biodiversity hotspot is a biogeographic region with significant levels of biodiversity that is threatened by human habitation.
- A chain of mountains running parallel to India’s western coast, approximately 30-50 km inland, the Ghats traverse the States of Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Goa, Maharashtra, and Gujarat.
- These mountains cover an area of around 140,000 km² in a 1,600 km long stretch that is interrupted only by the 30 km Palghat Gap.
- The Western Ghats is home to more than 30% of all plant, fish, herpeto-fauna, bird, and mammal species found in India.
- Several endemic species such as the Nilgiri tahr, lion-tailed macaque can be found here.
- The Ministry of Environment had issued amendments that intend at prohibiting or restricting industrial and developmental activities in the Ghats.
- This would have contributed to protecting and conserving the Western Ghats.
- The activities are proposed to be restricted to some 37% of the area of the mountain range, in an area of 59,940 sq km spreading over the five states of Western Ghat.
- Several experts have linked unplanned construction and quarrying to the worsening of disasters in the Western Ghats.
- In 2010, the then Ministry of Environment had constituted an expert panel, Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel (WGEEP) to examine the environmental issues related to the Western Ghats.
- The panel was led by ecologist Madhav Gadgil and it recommended that 75% of the 129,037 sq km area should be declared an environmentally sensitive area.
- This area constituted dense forest and a large number of endemic species.
- However, in 2013, a panel headed by rocket scientist K Kasturirangan scaled it down further.
- The Kasturirangan report tried to achieve a balance between environmental conservation and politico-economic expediency.
- The Kasturirangan panel has brought down the recommended area to 59,940 Sq.kms, which is 37% of the original area (Ecologically Sensitive Zone (ESZ)).
- The report emphasized the importance of conserving the rich biodiversity of the ghat.