'Unscientific': Karnataka rejects Kasturirangan panel report on Western Ghats

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Karnataka has decided to reject  the K Kasturirangan Committee’s recommendations for conservation of the Western Ghats. The announcement came just two days ahead of the December 31 deadline imposed by the National Green Tribunal (NGT) for its implementation. After a meeting chaired by Forest Minister Anand Singh, the state government decided its stand against the implementation of the recommendations in the Kasturirangan Committee report. 

"(The report) is unscientific and will affect the village residents in that region. The report is opposed right from the gram panchayat level to Assembly level," Revenue Minister R Ashoka told reporters. The report had suggested declaring 1,592 villages along the Western Ghats as ecologically sensitive areas. This would increase conservation measures and place restrictions on developmental activities in these villages. The villages covered an area of 20,668 sq km spread out across 11 districts.

Karnataka had rejected the draft notification of this report in May 2020. Monday's cabinet sub-committee meeting was the last meeting to discuss the report before the final decision was taken. Forest Minister Anand Singh had previously hinted at rejecting the report pointing out that red category industries would not be permitted inside eco-sensitive areas.

The issue will now come up before the NGT on December 31. The recommendations in the report also affect Gujarat, Maharashtra, Goa, Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu.

Karnataka will send a written memorandum to the Union government this week communicating its decision. "We will be immediately sending a letter to the Environment Minister communicating our decision on this," R Ashoka said. The sub-committee is also discussing reducing the eco-sensitive zone around wildlife sanctuaries and national parks from a 10-km radius to just 1 km.  

Home Minister Basavaraj Bommai was also present in the sub-committee meeting held on Monday.