Thursday, April 28, 2011

25 ecologically sensitive areas identified

KOCHI: Twenty-five ecologically sensitive areas (ESA) have been identified in the State by the Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel (WGEEP).

The identification is based on the ecological sensitivity scores assigned to different parts of the ghats region in the State.

A meeting of the panel, to be held in Thrissur on May 3, will discuss the list.

The Union Ministry of Environment and Forests had asked the panel to assess the status of the ecology of the ghats region and identify areas to be earmarked for notification as ecologically sensitive zones. It was also directed to recommend measures for preserving, conserving, and rejuvenating the environmentally sensitive and ecologically significant regions in the Western Ghats.

The panel will submit its report to the Ministry on June 5. According to indications, Sholayar, Athirapally, Nelliyampathy Hills, Attapadi, Vythiri, Malakkapara up to Munnar, Ranni and Konni, and some parts of Idukki district are on the Kerala list.

In Munnar, some areas close to the forest stretch will be declared sensitive and have to be left untouched. Tourism activities will be permitted in some less-sensitive areas. While formulating its proposals, the panel has taken care not to include any proposal that will affect the livelihood of common man. The meeting will discuss the scope and curbs on eco-tourism activities in the ghat regions, sources said.

Though there will be a general guideline for managing the ESAs, a location-specific action plan will be charted out with the involvement of stakeholders, including the local panchayat. The WGEEP's proposal assigning the ESA status will be forwarded to the local panchayats for clearance. The approved proposal will be forwarded to the State government, which will place it before the Western Ghats Expert Authority, to be formed by the Union Ministry of Environment and Forest, sources said.

Senior functionaries from the Local Self-Government Department will participate in the Thrissur deliberations.

Discussions on assigning sensitivity scores to parts of the Western Ghats that come under Gujarat, Goa, Karnataka, and Tamil Nadu will be held. A proposal regarding the constitution, mandate, and functioning of the Western Ghats Ecology Authority will also come up at the meeting.

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