[Western Ghats] Gadgil Report: Ecologically Sensitive Zones (ESZ), WGEA Authority (Part 3 of 4)

Environment28 Comments

  1. What is Gadgil Panel?
  2. Ecologically Sensitive Zones (ESZ)
  3. Western Ghats Ecology Authority (WGEA)?
  4. Hierarchy
  5. Structure
  6. Functions
  7. Zonal recommendations
  8. General recommendations

In the last two articles, we saw

  1. Western Ghats: overview of physical geography and biodiversity: click ME
  2. Threats to the biodiversity of Western Ghats: click ME

Now moving forward:

What is Gadgil Panel?

Gadgil report on Western Ghats

This is Madhav Gadgil

  • 2010: Environment ministry created this panel
  • Full name: Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel
  • Chairman=Prof. Madhav Gadgil   (he was Ex-Chairman, Centre for Ecological Sciences, in Indian Institute of Science)
  • To study the ecological and environmental problems of Western Ghats and give recommendations.
  • Gadgil submitted his report in 2011. Here are his observations and recommendations.

Ecologically Sensitive Zones (ESZ)

  • Environment Protection Act 1986 (EPA)=Union Government can designate an area as “ecologically sensitive zone” and then Government  can prohibit/regulate Development in this region.
  • Using this power, many ecologically sensitive zone have been setup.
  • E.g. Mahabaleshwar-Panchgani region in Mahrashtra.
  • But all of them face common problems:
  1. Over bureaucratization =corruption. For example a farmer would need to pay bribe  get clearance to dig well/bore in his own farm.
  2. little or no meaningful participation by the local community.
  • The Western Ghats has thousands of endemic species of flowering plants, fish, frogs, birds and mammals.
  • Therefore, entire Western Ghats should be designated as Ecologically sensitive zones.
  • Gadgil recommends that entire Western Ghat should be divided into 3 zones (actually 4)
  1. Zone 1
Highest protection must be given to them
  1. Zone 2
  1. Zone 3
Moderate control and protection.
  1. PA
Protected Areas= existing Wild Life Sanctuaries and National Parks.
  • final demarcation of the Zones should be done by Western Ghats Ecology Authority (WGEA).
  • And that too, after taking extensive inputs from local communities and local bodies, namely, Gram Panchayats, Taluka Panchayats, Zilla Parishads, and Nagarpalikas

Western Ghats Ecology Authority (WGEA)?

  • Madhav Gadgil Panel recommended for this.
  • WGEA will have jurisdiction over the Western Ghat districts in six states (Gujarat, Maharashtra, Goa, Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu).
  • WGEA will be a statutory authority appointed by the Ministry of Environment and Forests.


Western Ghats Ecology AuthorityUnion
State Western Ghats Ecology AuthoritiesIn 6 states
District Ecology CommitteeIn districts under Western Ghat


  1. Chairman – A retired judge of the Supreme Court, preferably from the Western Ghats region.
  2. Experts from biology, law, science, sociology etc.
  3. Representative from tribal group.
  4. Civil society representatives.


  1. conservation, sustainable development and Eco restoration of the Western Ghats
  2. Environmental Impact Analysis and Clearance process in Western Ghats.
  3. Its recommendations will be ordinarily binding. (just like National Board of Wildlife whose decisions are rarely tampered with and by and large have been approved even by the Supreme Court of India.)
  4. WEGA will decide location of industry, land use planning in Western Ghats.
  5. Prevent activity having negative environmental, social and ecological impact on Western Ghats.
  6. Can issue directions to the state government or agencies to prevent any negative impacts on the Western Ghats.
  7. Authority shall also be the final authority for demarcating the areas under the Ecologically Sensitive Zones #1, 2 and 3.
  8. Power to levy fines and other punitive measures
  9. Right to call for files, records, evidences etc. under Civil Procedure Code.

Zonal recommendations

As we saw earlier: Gadgil recommended Western Ghats to be divided into three ecologically sensitive zones. Here they’re:

Ecologically Sensitive Zone (ESZ)
Zone #1Zone #2Zone #3
MiningDonot give new licenses for mining.
  • Allow New mining license only IF  scarce minerals not available on the plains.
  • Existing mines should be under strict regulation and social audit.
Where mining exists, it should be phased out in 5 years.Existing mines should be under strict regulation and social audit.
Polluting Industry (Red/Orange)Donot allow new industries.Exisiting industries must switch to zero pollution by 2016 else close them down.Allow new industries but with strict regulation + social audit.
Non polluting industry (green/blue)Allow but with strict regulation + social audit
River projects/damsNo river projects higher than 3 meters.Not higher than 15mAny height allowed but with detailed environmental impact assessment.
Power plantsDonot allow new power plants.Existing= with strict regulation + social audit.New plants=only if they’ve zero pollution.
  • No new railway lines and major roads, except where it is highly essential (e.g Goa),
  • Avoid new highways, Expressways
Allowed but only with strict regulation + social audit.
Tourismwaste management, traffic, water  and energy use=strictly regulate. (recall Tiger tourism article).

General recommendations

  1. Promote organic agricultural practices
  2. Give money for sequestration of carbon in soils.
  3. Donot allow any Genetically Modified crops in Western Ghats.
  4. Phase out use of chemical pesticides/ weedicides in the coming years.
  5. Instead of giving subsidies for chemical fertilizers, give the farmers subsidies for biogas, organic agriculture etc.
  6. Donot allow monoculture plantation of exotic species like eucalyptus.
  7. Encourage planting of endemic species;
  8. Extraction of medicinal plants with strict regulations
Animal husbandary
  1. Promote cattle breed that can withstand adverse agro climatic conditions of Western Ghats.
  2. Donot allow weedicides in cash crop areas alongside the roads. Because almost all plants coming under the weed category are rich cattle fodder.
  3. Donot allow introduction of any invasive alien species.
  1. Donot allow dynamite and other explosives to kill fish;
  2. provide fish ladders at all reservoirs
  3. monitor and control trade in aquarium fishes.
  1. Make river clubs in every school.
  2. Teach agri-stuff in schools.
Sci-Tech and IT
  1. Use them for impact assessment for all new projects such as dams, mines, tourism, and housing.
  2. Prepare hydrological data base of rivers
  1. eco-friendly building material and construction methods,
  2. Minimise the use of steel, cement and sand
  3. Green Building certifications of
  4. Eco Housing, GRIHA codes.
  5. Donot allow filling of marshes/ wetlands.
  1. plastic bags in shops, tourist  spots should be phased out.
  2. Generate awareness about reasonable and adequate vs ‚luxury and wasteful energy consumption (for example excessive lights and Air conditioners in malls, hotels etc.)

Ok everything sounds well and good with Gadgil’s report, then why is there a controversy? We’ll see that in fourth and last article of this series: click me

So far 28 Comments posted

  1. nav

    Donot allow weedicides in cash crop areas alongside the roads. Because almost all plants coming under the weed category are rich cattle fodder.??????

    provide fish ladders at all reservoirs??????

    mrunal please explain not able to understand.

      1. Aditya

        Fish Ladders- Provided at the middle of an embankment\dam making travel possible for migratory fishes who wish to go from one end of the river to the another. It is a very essential part of any embankment as it saves precious aquatic life as they migrate for breeding and have to return back to their natural habitats. Dams obstruct this natural process.

      2. Aditya

        Weedicides – It is used to kill weeds. If sprayed on the weeds alongside cash crops, which is fodder eaten by the cattle, will enter the food chain. Since most of it comes under the category of non-biodegradable materials, will amount to bio-magnification i.e. start accumulating in those higher in the food chain, finally reaching humans. Hence, not recommended.

  2. joy muthukattil

    Gadgil report is the last resort for our enviromrnt survival. So it must be carefully applied and strictly followed so that the next generation will survive.

  3. Abhinav

    And now comes the report of another expert panel…i.e K.Kasturirangan panel. Many of these recommendations are contrary to the recommendations made by Gadgil panel.

  4. Amit

    Simply Awesome.you are doing great job.Thanks a lot.

    One Typo Error.
    4)WEGA will decide location of industry, land use planning in Western Ghats.


  5. HIM

    mr. gadgil done you, done well,
    but it is the unwritten rule of our country
    “panel pe panel ” bithao par karo kuch bhi nahi.

  6. Ravi Surjuse

    In today’s highly materialistc world what a valuable contribution you are making to the job competiters is extremely thankful action by you! Hats off for you dear mrunal sir!

  7. Nijisha

    This is ecofriendly and human friendly report.. then why the people against this report?
    WE should give awareness classes to children… only they can do… they can do every thing for nature…
    old people does not change their thoughts

  8. mithun p

    a report that is covering all the areas where our societys intervention is needed for protecting western ghats.

  9. Shaji

    The hartal and other activities going on in Kerala these days (mid nov.2013) are against the long term interest of common people living today and the future generations. By spoiling western ghats we are trying to transform Kerala almost like Tamil Nadu in weather. It is clear that politicians, mining lobby and some priests are having special interest. Wonder what is the use of such a high literacy rate for Kerala.


    Any study on basics and follow up conservation on ecology bereft of geological inputs in my opinion is not only a futile exercise but also unscientific and bound to create more problems than solve them. In spite of the fact well known to every body,we in India ignore geological inputs and even avoid geology.Even though 9 out of the 14 environmental elements are related to Geology,almost all expert panels on environment never have a geologist in the panel.I recall the problems faced by railways during the construction of the west coast rail to Goa,because GSI was not a part of the programme

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