In an attempt to protect the vast ecology and biodiversity of the Western Ghats, the environment ministry notified a draft of a broken eco-sensitive zone (ESZ) in the Western Ghats which span over six states.
The zone is about 25% of the total area of the Western Ghats. As notified by the environment ministry, the area stretches for 56, 825 sq. km. The breakdown is as follows; Gujarat 449 sq. km, Goa 1461 sq. km, Tamil Nadu 6914 sq. km, Kerala 9993 sq. km, Maharashtra 17340 sq. km, and Karnataka 20668 sq. km combine to contribute towards the total ESZ.
It must be noted that the newly notified size is about 3125 sq. km less than what the former environment minister Jayanthi Natarajan had approved on the basis of the Kasturirangan panel formed during UPA regime. While the previous version called for continuous ESZs, the new notification pitches the idea of small ESZs which exclude human habitats and plantations.
Thus, adhering to the recommendations of the Kasturirangan committee, existing mines in the region will be phased out within five years. In addition to this, no new thermal power plants and/or expansion of existing ones will be permitted. Industries which have been classified under the ‘red’ category by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) will not be allowed in the ESZs.
The notification also covers other important directives like the prohibition of projects, constructions, and townships beyond a certain limit. It also allows hydro-power projects and focuses on the sustainable development of the populace living in the region.
The Western Ghats area is one of the world's ten hottest biodiversity hotspots and is home to more than 7402 species of flowering plants, 139 species of mammals, 508 bird species, 6000 insect species, and 290 freshwater fish species among several others. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is ecologically sensitive to development.
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