Environment Ministry allows agri, plantation activities along Western Ghats

Under pressure from states like Kerala, Environment Ministry on Friday allowed agriculture and plantation activities along the Western Ghats which had been banned through the implementation of an earlier order issued last month.

The Ministry eased the norms while maintaining that ban on activities including red category industries, mining, quarrying, sand mining, thermal power plants, building and construction projects of 20,000 sq m area and above and township and area development projects with an area of 50 ha and above or with built up area of 1,50,000 sq m and above will continue.

"The earlier OM (Office Memorandum)...dated 16th November 2013 regarding 'in principle' acceptance of High Level Working Group (HLWG) Report on Western Ghats stands withdrawn," the Environment Ministry said.

The Ministry, which had put the ban on the basis of Kasturirangan Panel report on Western Ghats on November 16, now said, "Relevant steps would be initiated to operationalise the recommendations" of the High Level Working Group.

Environment Minister Jayanthi Natarajan said the Ministry has not gone back from its decision to implement the Kasturirangan Panel report.

The Ministry said the recommendations also do not prohibit or restrict any normal activities relating to plantations, agriculture or any other activity except those which have been specifically prohibited/restricted in the ESA.

The Ministry said a High Level Committee of the MoEF will be set up to monitor the implementation of the recommendations of the HLWG in a time bound manner.

It said that the recommendations given by the Kasturirangan Panel neither put any fresh restrictions on land use in the ESA nor do they in any way impact the continued occupation of land in possession of the local people and affect their day to day activities or normal livelihood.

"In certain parts of Kerela, people were worried it is affecting agriculture activities and I am saying it does not affect....One can practice whatever agriculture...you will not be moved out of your house...," Natarajan said.

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