THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The principal bench of the National Green Tribunal has directed theMinistry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) to place the report of Kasturirangan committee, which is reviewing the Western Ghats Expert Ecology Panel (WGEEP) report, by March 1.

The green tribunal has also directed the chief secretaries of all states to cooperate with the Kastrurirangan expert committee. The order came on a public interest litigation filed by Goa Foundation with regard to the conservation of Western Ghats and implementation of the WGEEP report.

The MoEF, in its submission, said it had already undertaken the process for finalization of Dr Madhav Gadgil’s WGEEP report. “We have invited the states, general public and ministries concerned to make their suggestions and objections upon consideration of the report. The report shall be finalized soon and the final report is likely to be submitted by February 16, 2013, whereafter it shall be submitted to the tribunal,” it said.

The ministry had also sought a reasonable time to file the report on or before the next date of hearing. The PIL was filed in July last year and the green tribunal, in an interim order, had directed MoEF to take note of the WGEEP report and take a decision only in consonance with the provisions made in the report.

“The interim order and the latest order asking the MoEF to submit theKasturirangan committee report within a deadline gives us some hope that the WGEEP report will be implemented soon. This report has many positive aspects that help conservation of eco fragile regions along the Western Ghats,” said Dr Latha Anantha, director of River Research Centre and one of the petitioners in the case.

She said the MoEF had not made the WGEEP report public for many months and it was only after an RTI order passed by central information commissioner Shailesh Gandhi that the report was made public last year. States like Kerala had raised objection against the zonation process done by the WGEEP and said 36 of the 63 taluks will come under some kind of zoning.

Taking stock of the objections of various states, the Kasturirangan committee has now recommended reducing the grid size of eco sensitive zones along the Western Ghats. The committee is of the view that the new gradation will not in any way dilute the original intention of conservation of core forest areas and buffer zones, but will instead take a more administrable approach, balancing both ecological conservation and community development.

“Now we need to see know how many grids will remain in an ESZ and how much it will impact the eco fragile regions in the Western Ghats,” Dr Latha said.