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‘Concerned people’ vow to protect Western Ghats

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The meet convened by the People for Western Ghats at Peaceful Society, Madkai, unanimously resolved to work for the protection and conservation of the eco-sensitive, biodiversity-rich wildlife corridor in the Western Ghats.

Pandurang Hegde and Kalandand Mani initiated and guided the discussions wherein various issues pertaining to the present status of protection and conservation of the Western Ghats, the concept of responsible tourism, politics behind non-implementation of Western Ghats Environment Expert Panel and efforts which are going on to dilute existing environmental laws were discussed.

Members of the organizing group expressed grave concern over unplanned tourism activities hampering the eco-sensitivity of the biodiversity rich Dudhsagar valley of the Mollem National Park. Read more

Courtesy: The Times of India

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Agriculture, plantations allowed along Western Ghats

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New Delhi: The union environment ministry on Friday allowed agriculture and plantation activities along the Western Ghats which had been banned through an order last month.

“The earlier OM (office memorandum)…dated November 16, 2013 regarding ‘in principle’ acceptance of high level working group report on Western Ghats stands withdrawn,” the environment ministry said in an official note.

The ministry however maintained that the ban on activities, including mining, quarrying, sand mining, thermal power plants, building and construction projects of 20,000 square m area and above and township and area development projects or with built up area of 1,50,000 square m and above will continue.

It said the recommendations also do not prohibit or restrict any normal activities relating to plantations, agriculture or any other activity except those which have been specifically prohibited or restricted.

The ministry, which had clamped the ban on the basis of the Kasturirangan panel report on the Western Ghats on November 16, said: “Relevant steps would be initiated to operationalise the recommendations” of the high level working group.

A high level committee of the ministry will be set up to monitor the implementation of the recommendations of the working group in a time bound manner, it said.

The recommendations given by the Kasturirangan panel neither put any fresh restrictions on land use nor do they in any way impact the continued occupation of land in possession of the local people and affect their day to day activities or normal livelihood, it added.

The ministry’s decision came after widespread protests in Kerala by various religious groups and political parties against the notification of the report.

Courtesy: indileak

India faces uphill battle on biodiversity

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Government decision to limit protection for species-rich mountains angers conservationists.

India’s Western Ghats are a tainted paradise. Running almost the length of the country’s western coast, the mountain range covers just 6% of India’s landmass but is home to more than 30% of its plant, fish, bird and mammal species, making it one of the world’s top ten biodiversity hotspots. But the mountains also contain large mineral reserves.

The question of how to strike a balance between protecting and developing the region, home to 39 UNESCO World Heritage sites, has been troubling India. Last month, matters came to a head when ministers announced that they would accept the recommendations of a working group to cordon off more than one-third of the region and ban many industrial activities within it.

This may sound like good news, but the recommendations ran roughshod over a 2011 government-commissioned report by the Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel. Headed by one of India’s leading ecologists, Madhav Gadgil, a visiting professor at Goa University in Taleigao Plateau, the report advised classifying the entire region as ecologically sensitive.

The two groups are now at loggerheads, and the government’s November decision has led to protests by conservationists, farmers and the mining and construction industries. “There was no need for yet another report after the Gadgil committee report,” says Sreedhar Ramamurthy, managing trustee of the Environics Trust, a non-governmental organization based in New Delhi. “The aim seems to be to open up more areas for development projects.” Read more

Courtesy: nature

Western ghats need to be protected: National Green Tribunal

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PANAJI: The National Green Tribunal has ruled that it would have jurisdiction to entertain all civil cases raising questions of inaction over protection of environment.

In an order passed on Thursday, the tribunal said that the it is indisputable and an unquestionable fact that Western Ghats are ecologically sensitive and require protection.

The government itself had appointed three different committees from time to time to find out ways and means by which the Western Ghats can be protected and its degradation prevented.

The order came on an application filed by two environmental groups from Goa – Goa Foundation and Peaceful society – who had sought a direction to the government and their agencies not to issue any consent/environment clearance or NOC of permission under Environment protection act and other acts, within the western ghats areas, particularly in ecologically sensitive zones – ESZ 1 and 2. The main prayer is for a direction to the government authorities to discharge their obligations for protection of the western ghats as enunciated by the western ghats ecology expert panel headed by Dr Madhav Gadgil in its report dated August 31 2012.

Besides union of India, among the parties named as respondents include state of Maharashtra, Goa, Karnataka, Kerala, Gujarat, Tamil nadu, state pollution control boards, etc.

“By inaction, naturally, there will be violation of the precautionary principle and therefore, the tribunal will have jurisdiction to entertain all civil cases raising such questions of environment”, the principal bench said in the order.

Rejecting the plea of some of the respondents, the tribunal held that it has jurisdiction to hear pleas on issues of environment protection. The five member bench headed by Justice Swatanter Kumar directed that the main application be listed for hearing on merits.

Courtesy: TIMES OF INDIA

Mini-hydro projects still a major threat to Western Ghats

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The blanket ban on all new mini-hydro power projects in the Western Ghats, ordered three months ago by the Karnataka High Court and celebrated by environmentalists, may not, after all, be as all-encompassing as was intended.

A 24-MW hydro power project proposed for the Kumaradhara in Dakshina Kannada’s Puttur taluk could well become a reality as it was sanctioned on ‘private land’ prior to the High Court order. The hydel project, proposed by Kukke Hydro Powers Pvt. Ltd., could submerge 1,882 hectares of land, including agricultural fields and prime forests, according to a report commissioned by the Western Ghats Task Force in April.

Although the company claims that the project involves “no submergence of land, hence no loss of species… [or] any resettlement or rehabilitation of the people,” a study invited by the Task Force warns of “complete dislocations of traditional livelihoods associated with agriculture, horticulture, cattle wealth, and forest-based livelihoods.”

Cropland and plantations account for 36 per cent of the land that could submerge while forests constitute 46 per cent, it adds. This includes the Kunthur/Panaja range reserve forests where rare medicinal plants, endemic evergreen trees and endangered fish find habitat, says the report by the Centre for Ecological Sciences at the Indian Institute of Science (IISc.). The Kumaradhara originates in Kodagu and joins the Gundia and the Netravati in Puttur taluk.

DOZENS MORE

By the admission of Karnataka Renewable Energy Development Ltd. (KREDL), the project proposed by Kukke Hydro Powers is one of the dozens of similar mini-hydro projects that still stand a fighting chance of being commissioned in the Western Ghats despite the High Court order.

“Any project, sanctioned in privately owned land, before the High Court order was made, could be legally commissioned,” said a KREDL official who did not want to be named. “Nearly half of the 158 projects sanctioned before the High Court order could become operational if they get approval from the Forest Department,” the official told The Hindu. In January, residents of five villages in Puttur taluk protested against the project, whose promoters, they said, had blocked their access to the river. Meanwhile, the Mangalore DCF has booked a case against the company for felling trees without permission on the site of the proposed project.

The hydro power project is “ecologically and economically unviable” and “needs to be shelved”, says the report prepared by a team led by T.V. Ramachandra of CES.

Courtesy: The Hindu