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Goa NGO to challenge junking of Gadgil report on Western Ghats

Panaji, Aug 28 (Agencies): A Goa-based organisation has decided to move the National Green Tribunal against the Union government’s decision to junk the Gadgil report on the Western Ghats, which had proposed strict limits on mining and development in the belt.

On Wednesday, in an affidavit filed before the NGT, the Union Ministry of Environment & Forests (MoEF) had submitted that it is examining recommendations of the K. Kasturirangan-led panel and will not process the Madhav Gadgil report for further action.

The Kasturirangan panel had diluted the Gadgil report considerably, allowing for mining and development activities in a much wider area of the roughly 1,29,037sqkm belt, which the Gadgil panel had declared ecologically sensitive in its entirety.

The Tribunal was hearing a plea by two non-government organisations, Goa Foundation and Peaceful Society, which had sought to restrain the authorities from granting fresh nods to projects in the region.

On Wednesday, the NGT bench directed the counsel appearing for the ministry to seek instructions from the MoEF and file an appropriate response in this regard on September 9.

”The court has given us time to challenge the MoEF order which we will be doing,” Goa Foundation's Director Dr Claude Alvares told PTI on Thursday.

”It is unfortunate that MoEF has given up an ecologically well- developed report which was formed after public consultation and replaced it with the report (Kasturirangan) which has not given power to grass root bodies like gram sabhas,” Alvares said.

He said the Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel (WGEEP) headed by Prof Madhav Gadgil had submitted a “very good report”, prepared by 12 people who are living in the Western Ghats. As defined by the panel, this is a 1,490km long mountain belt, ranging in width from 48km to 210km, with a total area of 1,29,037sqkm.

”They (MoEF) have preferred to go for scientific report where none of the members are from Western Ghats and which has imposed the protection of the region from the top (referring to bureaucrats and law makers),” he said.

”All environment regimes which are imposed from the top have failed. Government does not have mechanism to implement its own laws. It is the bodies like gram sabhas which can do it,” said the noted environmentalist.

The Gadgil panel, in its report to MoEF dated August 31, 2011, has designated the entire Western Ghats as an ecologically-sensitive area and divided the whole region in three categories according to their ecological sensitivities.

The WGEEP had in its report recommended that no mining should be allowed in the Western Ghats in Goa.

For mining activities in other areas in two categories, WGEEP had recommended that no new licenses should to be given and where mining exists, it should be phased out in five years by 2016.

The committee had also recommended that no new polluting industry should be allowed in the regions of the first two categories and non-polluting industries may be allowed with strict regulation and social audit.


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