States ask Centre to expedite notification of ecologically sensitive areas in Western Ghats

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News:Six states have asked the Environment Minister to expedite the process to notify the Western Ghats as an ecologically sensitive area(ESAs).

Facts:

Ecologically sensitive areas(ESA) in Western Ghats:

  • The Madhav Gadgil Commission formed in 2010 had recommended in its report in 2011 that 64% of the Western Ghats be declared ecologically sensitive.
  • In 2012, the Environment Ministry formed another working group on Western Ghats under K Kasturirangan to examine the Gadgil Commission report.
  • The Committee recommended that identified geographical areas falling in the six States of Kerala, Karnataka, Goa, Maharashtra, Gujarat and Tamil Nadu may be declared as Ecologically Sensitive Areas. 
    • It recommended to bring just 37% of the Western Ghats under the Ecologically Sensitive Area (ESA) zones — down from the 64% suggested by the Gadgil Committee report
  • A draft notification was issued in 2018 mentioning the areas to be notified in the ESA.However, it was decided that state specific issues shall be further deliberated so as to arrive at a consensus on the issue

Ecologically Sensitive Areas(ESA):

  • It is an area notified by the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC), around Protected Areas, National Parks and Wildlife Sanctuaries.
  • Notifications declaring areas as ESZ are issued under the Environment (Protection) Act 1986. 
  • Aim: To regulate certain activities around National Parks and Wildlife Sanctuaries so as to minimise the negative impacts of such activities on the fragile ecosystem encompassing the protected areas.
  • According to the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986, the government can prohibit industrial operations such as mining, sand quarrying and building thermal power plants in sensitive areas.