Bangalore, Sep 15, 2014: Even as the Centre’s deadline to submit the report is close to expiry, by end of September, the State is yet to complete its physical verification process of the ESA.
It is said that the administrations of 11 districts have been entrusted with the job of conducting the verification process. State government has embarked upon the field verification process of the Ecological Sensitive Area (ESA) in the Western Ghats range, as recommended by the Dr K Kasturirangan committee, in the 1,549 villages of the Ghats.
Sources in the government state that the objective of the field verification is to ensure that the villages and taluks have more than 50 per cent of their area under forest cover. Another direction given to the district administrations is to identify the rare ecological hotspots in the Western Ghats and take them into consideration while earmarking the region as ESA. It is said that the consideration of ecological hotspot was inspired directly by the Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel report.
The physical survey is likely to take two to three months. The State government may seek another extension of time for completing the physical verification and submit its final report to the Centre. A section in the Forest department is skeptical of whether the physical survey can indeed be completed.
It is said that at the local administration level, it is impossible to ignore ‘pressure’ from the villagers and politicians to exclude their area from ESA tag. Further, the vast exercise may not be feasible for the government to complete in the short span of time, say a few officials.
The State government has petitioned the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) to allow quarrying and sand mining in the Western Ghats region. Officials state that the MoEF was petitioned to permit quarrying of jelly stones and sand mining for the local villagers to construct homes and other civic amenities.