Kasturirangan Committee on the Western Ghats

The Committee was constituted in order to address the issues, problems, and grievances of locals in Western Ghats.

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Kasturirangan Committee on the Western Ghats
Photo by Sonika Agarwal / Unsplash

Kasturirangan Committee on the Western Ghats - Background

The Committee was constituted in order to address the issues, problems, and grievances of locals in Western Ghats. The committee has submitted a report in this context. It was constituted to examine the WGEEP report. The 10 members committee is led by Dr. Krishnaswamy Kasturirangan often known as HLWG (High-Level Working Group).

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observations of the Kasturirangan Committee

  • Due to negligence from the state government, and insensitivity towards the topic of conservation of Ecological Sensitive Area (ESA), the massive area of 56k sq. km of Western Ghats is not yet marked “no-go-area”, which is of utmost importance at this point of time.
  • Recently witnessed floods in the Kerala and some parts of Karnataka are the warning bells for the administrative and coastal state Govt. of Goa, Maharashtra, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, and Karnataka in particular (failed to mark ESA in their respective zones).

Recommendations of the Kasturirangan Committee

  • 60k sq. km (i.e. 60,000 square kilometers) of area needed under the Ecological Sensitive Area (ESA). This comprised 37% of the total area.
  • Permanent sanction on industrial activities such as mining, quarrying, and lumbering.
Clear differentiation between the area of human settlements/colonies (about 58% in the Western Ghats is by human settlement, their farmlands, and vegetation) and Natural (As per the recommendation made by the committee 90% of this Natural landscape should come under ESA).
  • The current mining operations should be cleared out in the next five years or when the agreed lease expires (whichever is earlier).
  • No entry for any ambitious project of electricity generation through the thermal power plant.
  • Hydropower project with strict regulations.
  • Strictly no entry to high polluting industries (i.e. Red industries).
  • Pro-farmer recommendations such as no Ecological Sensitive Area (ESA) on farmer-occupied regions (i.e. settlement, agriculture, and plantation).

Condemnation of Kasturirangan Committee Report

  • Critics say the zonal demarcation of the landscape of western ghats, was devised using the latest remote sensing and aerial survey, without any consideration to the ground reality of the Western Ghats, thus prone to many errors.
  • The report confers office-bearers (ministers & bureaucrats) and Govt. forest officials and lack of accommodation of local community members or gram sabhas.
Locally spread rumors say “Eventually all farmers will have to evacuate the western ghats” if Kasturirangan committee recommendations are deployed successfully. Others say it is of mining and quarrying community lobbyist to have golden times, increase in tourism will create pollution and lastly will create a scarcity of fresh water in the surrounding area. The committee disagrees, with the above claims.
  • The “imprecise/inaccurate method” of the Kasturirangan report included many villages (as many as 123 villages) under Ecological Sensitive Area (ESA), which were local rubber plantations and not forest lands.
  • Others also say, the real ESA is left out and Non-ESA is marked as ESA, thus committee needs to reconsider their options for the Western Ghats.