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

MrunalEnvironment

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

In the last two articles, we saw

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

Gadgil Panel: origin

  • 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.

Gadgil report on Western Ghats

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)
Gadgil’s Classification of Western Ghats
  1. Zone 1
Highest protection must be given to them
  1. Zone 2
Intermediate
  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.
Hierarchy of W.Ghat authorities
Western Ghats Ecology Authority Union
State Western Ghats Ecology Authorities In 6 states
District Ecology Committee In districts under Western Ghat

Structure

  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.

Functions

  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 #1 Zone #2 Zone #3
Mining Donot 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/dams No river projects higher than 3 meters. Not higher than 15m Any height allowed but with detailed environmental impact assessment.
Power plants Donot allow new power plants. Existing= with strict regulation + social audit.New plants=only if they’ve zero pollution.
Transport
  • 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.
Tourism waste management, traffic, water and energy use=strictly regulate. (recall Tiger tourism article).

General recommendations

Agriculture
  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 husbandry
  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.
Fisheries
  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.
Awareness
  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
Construction
  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.
Misc
  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.

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