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Centre to notify rules to protect Ghats
The Western Ghats, a hotspot of biological diversity, will get a protective cover as no building projects, mines or industries will be allowed in the more than one-third of the area.
The Central government is expected to soon formally notify the recommendations of the high-level panel headed by Dr K. Kasturirangan. Dr Kasturirangan, the Planning Commission member, has recommended that 37 per cent of the Western Ghats be declared as an environmentally-sensitive area, where no thermal power plants, mining, building projects or polluting industries should be allowed.
All polluting industries would be put under the red list issued under the Environment Protection Act once the ministry of environment formally notifies the recommendations of the Kasturirangan report. However, the Kasturirangan high-level working group, which had included members like Sunita Narain, Prof. C.R. Babu, Prof. Kanchan Chopra and J.M. Mauskar, has left a question mark over the 200 MW Gundia Hydel project in Karnataka and the 163 MW Athirappilly hydel project in Kerala.
Prof. Madhav Gadgil, an ecologist, had headed an earlier report on the Western Ghats.The Gadgil committee had rejected both these projects, insisting they would adversely impact the ecology and the communities living in the Western Ghats. The Kasturirangan report, in contrast, states that hydropower projects may be allowed in the ESA- albeit subject to some conditions.
These include ensuring an uninterrupted 30 per cent ecological flow of the rivers in the lean season and a cumulative study to assess the impact of each project on the forests and biodiversity loss. “We have set very tough conditions for the setting up of hydro projects. The Gundia and Athirappilly projects did not seem feasible and we believe details reviews of both these projects needs to be done,” Ms Sunita Narain said.