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Western Ghats: New environment minister calls for wider consultations

12 August 2016

The government will have the widest possible consultations with members of Parliament and legislative assemblies on preserving the Western Ghats, even as the government intends to maintain a balance between ecology and development, the new environment minister Anil Dave said.

Speaking after chairing a meeting with MPs from Western Ghats region in New Delhi on Thursday, minister of state (independent charge) of environment, forest and climate change, Anil Madhav Dave said ''the door is open for all noble ideas.''

Dave said that villagers and tribals living in the region must have access to infrastructure roads, power and drinking water.

He noted that different states have different problems because of the varying nature of geographical, climatic and socio-economic conditions and these have to be addressed as such. The environment minister also said that the draft notification is likely to be finalized within six months.

The ministry had published a draft notification for declaring ecologically sensitive area (ESA) of Western Ghats, on 4 September 2015, with the objective of conserving and protecting the unique biodiversity of the region.

MPs from Western Ghats region (Maharashtra, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Goa, Gujarat and Kerala) and senior officers of the ministry of environment, forest and climate change participated in the meeting.

The MPs who attended the meeting included Sharad Pawar, Shashi Tharoor, Tiruchi Siva, KS Prasad, A Sampanth,  K Soma Prasad, Vinayak Bhaurau Raut and  P K Shrimati Teacher, among others.

Chairing the third meeting of MPs from Himalayan Region, the minister said the government has underlined the need for an interface on the real problems of the Himalayan region, as it will help in proper planning.

Dave said that man, wild animals and forests have been living in harmonious co-existence. He pointed out that no scheduled tribe has ever posed a threat to the forests.

He emphasised that Himalayas must be seen as a single whole and not in different parts. ''Himalayan range is one of the areas that has been suffering the ill-effects of pollution the most'', Dave said.

The meeting discussed the possibility of disaster risk reduction, climate change impact, retreat of Himalayan glaciers, forest fires and the need to reduce out migration, among other issues. Members of Parliament raised the issue of diversity and extreme sensitivity of Himalayas.

Members of Parliament who attended the meeting included Ajay Tamta, Shanta Kumar, Bhagat Singh Koshyari, Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank and Neiphu Rio, among others.

Earlier, two meetings held in September and December last year, had discussed the need to bring in a 'Mountain Perspective' in national policies and plans as also the need to find long-term, research-based solutions to the issues specific to the region. Members also stressed the need for collective advocacy at national level and bringing mountain states to the forefront of Sustainable Development Agenda in the country.

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