Fact Box: K. Kasturirangan High-Level Working Group

K. Kasturirangan-led 10-member panel High-Level Working Group (HLWG) Presented its report on Western Ghats to MoEF (Ministry of Environment and Forests)
K. Kasturirangan-led 10-member panel High-Level Working Group (HLWG) has prepared a report on Western Ghats which suggests for ban on development activities in 60,000 sq km ecologically sensitive area spread over Gujarat, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Goa, Kerala and Tamil Nadu.
Objective: K.Kasturirangan panel was formed to study and advise Govt on the earlier report of ecologist Madhav Gadgil-led Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel (WGEEP).
Some Facts:

  • Around 37% of the total area defined as the boundary of the Western Ghats is ecologically sensitive.
  • This area is of about 60,000 sq km and it spreads over the states of Goa, Gujarat, Karnataka, Kerala, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu.

What were the key suggestions made by the K. Kasturirangan led HLWG?

  • K.Kasturirangan panel has moved away from the suggestions of the Gadgil panel.
  • The HLWG has suggested a prohibitive regimen on those activities which have the most interference and harmful impact on the environment.
  • The report notes, “environmentally sound development cannot preclude livelihood and economic options for this region… the answer (to the question of how to manage and conserve the Ghats) will not lie in removing these economic options, but in providing better incentives to move them towards greener and more sustainable practices”.
  • Promotion of Ecotourism along the ecologically-volatile Western Ghats to preserve the depleting natural wealth of the area
  • Economically empower the local population
  • Incentivize green growth in the Western Ghats – i.e. supervising forests and bettering their productivity to ascertain inclusive growth and economical gains for local communities; integrating forest accounts into state and national economic assessments; initiating an ecosystem service fund to help villages around the forests; promoting sustainable agriculture and; encouraging ecotourism for local benefits.
  • Establish a Decision Support and Monitoring Centre for Geospatial Analysis and Policy Support in the Western Ghats, which will supervise changes and propose state government on policy reform and all such reports must be in the public domain.
  • High-resolution map, delimiting ecologically sensitive areas, down to each village settlement, must be put in the public domain so that people can be involved in taking decisions about environment.
  • The HLWG report draws upon the basic framework suggested by WGEEP to use remote sensing technologies to demarcate the ecologically sensitive areas of the Western Ghats but with two key differences:-

First: it used satellite data, down to 24 m resolution, as against 9 km used by WGEEP.
This finer resolution was possible because of the collaboration with NRSC/ISRO, which used datasets to distinguish vegetation types over the landscape of the entire Western Ghats.
Second: it distinguishes between the cultural and the natural landscape of the region.
Using remote sensing technology, it has found that the cultural landscape – which includes human settlements, agricultural fields and plantations – covers 58.44% of the region.

The natural landscape ranges over the remaining 41.56 %.

Thus, HLWG has moved away from the suggestions of the Expert Panel, which had recommended a blanket approach consisting of guidelines for sector-wise activities, which would be permitted in the ecologically sensitive zones.
What were the key suggestions made by the Madhav Gadgil led WGEEP earlier?
Earlier, the WGEEP had suggested that:

  • Entire Western Ghats be declared as an ecologically sensitive area.
  • 3 levels of categorization for the regulatory measures for protection would be imposed.
  • Establishment of the Western Ghats Ecology Authority for management of the Ghats.
  • A blanket approach comprising of road map for sector-wise activities, which could be permitted in the ecologically sensitive zones.



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