Fourth draft issued on Western Ghats no-go zone post several failed attempts

The latest draft, issued by the environment ministry on October 3, is exactly the same what the Centre had proposed in the February 27, 2017.

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The Western Ghats extends over a distance of approx. 1,500 km from Tapti river in the north to Kanyakumari in the south.
Unable to bring states on board after issuing draft notifications thrice during 2014-17 for earmarking eco-sensitive area (ESA) on Western Ghats, the Centre has now come out with the fourth such draft proposing 56,825 sq km as ‘no go’ zone for any polluting activities and deforestation.

The latest draft, issued by the environment ministry on October 3, is exactly the same what the Centre had proposed in the February 27, 2017 notification in terms of extent of the ESA and restrictions of activities.

Though ministry has given stakeholders time till December 2 to come out with any objection or suggestion, it clarified that the provisions of the draft notification would be subject to the “final orders of the court in pending litigation”. It means the Centre would wait for the order of the National Green Tribunal (NGT) which has been hearing the case of notifying ESA on the Western Ghats.


The NGT had on August 24 directed the ministry to finalise the notification within a period of six months without making any alteration in the draft of February last year. So, the Centre will now have to finalise it by February next year.

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“It is a matter of deep regret and a measure of official apathy that a process that began in 2011 is still to see its finality. And if that was not enough, then the proposed Western Ghats ESA spread over some 56,825 sq km (a much watered down version of the original recommendations) over six states still remains in question,” said environmentalist Manoj Misra.

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Though the ministry had on recommendation of a high-level working group (HLWG) wanted to earmark 59,940 sq km (approx. 37% of Western Ghats) of natural landscape as ESA, it had to reduce 3,115 sq km while heeding to Kerala’s demand.

The HLWG had suggested 13,108 sq km of Kerala within the ESA. The Centre, however, in its subsequent draft reduced it to 9,993 sq km, bringing down the proposed ESA from 59,940 sq km to 56,825 sq km.

“Such lackadaisical approach of the central government and reluctance on the part of the respective state governments is amazing in light of unprecedented deluge that Kerala and parts of Tamil Nadu recently experienced,” said Misra of the Yamuna Jiye Abhiyaan.

The process to notify ESA was got further delayed when Karnataka, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu too raised their objections on recommendation of the HLWG, leaving the ecologically fragile region in Western Ghats open for further exploitation. While Karnataka wanted the ministry to withdraw the 2017 draft notification, Maharashtra submitted to cut down the proposed ESA within the state from 17,340 sq km to 15,613 sq km and reduce the number of villages from 2,133 to 2,123. Similarly, Tamil Nadu too wanted reduction of nearly 250 sq km from the state’s share in the Western Ghats ESA.

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The Western Ghats extends over a distance of approx. 1,500 km from Tapti river in the north to Kanyakumari in the south with an average elevation of more than 600 metres, covering parts of Gujarat, Maharashtra, Goa, Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu.
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