NEW DELHI: Seeking public participation in restoration of pristine vegetation in Western Ghats, the government has invited feedback from citizens to help it identify “ecologically sensitive areas” in the fragile region.
The move primarily aims at starting a public debate before the government takes any final decision on demarcating areas within the region that will be notified as ecologically sensitive zones and protect the biodiversity hotspot’s current ecological status.
“Public opinion has been invited as to what areas in the Western Ghats should be identified as being ‘ecologically sensitive areas’, why they feel so, and what set of regulations tailored to the needs of the locality should be put in place if the area were to be formally declared as being ecologically sensitive,” a senior environment official said.
Set up by the Environment Minister, Mr Jairam Ramesh in March, the Western Ghats ecology expert panel led by ecologist, Mr Madhav Gadgil is already working towards this direction by compiling all details regarding the region and preparing maps of levels of ecological sensitivity on the Western Ghats tract.
The region is facing ecological and environmental problems due to increasing pressure of population, industrial, mining, and infrastructural activities (roads, Railways), mono culture plantations besides felling of trees and encroachments.
It is estimated that the Western Ghats, spread across six states of Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Goa, Maharashtra and Gujarat, neutralise 4 million tonnes of carbon equivalent to 14 million tonnes of carbon dioxide annually.
“We fully realise that ecological sensitivity is not merely a scientific, but very much a human concern and it is the locals who have specific understanding of what has been happening and what is desirable,” the official said.
He said the ministry is also open to the idea of “not identifying some areas on the Western Ghats” if people feel so.
To ensure wider reach, the ministry has welcomed submissions not only in English and Hindi but in other vernacular languages such as Gujarati, Marathi, Konkani, Kannada, Tamil and Malayalam as well, the official said.