Is Karnataka chief minister B.S. Yediyurappa (in picture) guided by Kodagu legislators in opposing the draft notification on the eco-sensitive area (ESA) of Western Ghats as recommended by the Kasturirangan committee?
Virajpet MLA K.G. Bopaiah, was instrumental in saving the Yediyurappa government in 2010 when he was the Speaker by disqualifying rebel BJP and independent MLAs during a no-confidence motion.
It is perceived that Bopaiah who is closely identified with the timber lobby could have influenced the chief minister to oppose the draft notification. The chief minister had recently written a letter to the Union government opposing the draft notification.
The National Green Tribunal has taken exception to the Union government’s delay in finalising the notification. So far the Centre has issued four draft notifications which have lapsed for want of consensus on the extent of area to be declared as ESA.
It is said Karnataka has been the sole state which has been a stumbling block by refusing to accept the concept of ESA, whereas the other five states coming under the Western Ghats area have agreed in principle the concept of ESA.
Yediyurappa has opposed the draft notification in its present form which proposes 20,688 square km as ESA for the state.
In his letter addressed to the Union Forest and Environment minister Prakash Javadekar, Yediyurappa said: “The recommendation of an ESA of 20,688 sq km in Karnataka is not feasible. As it is, 16,632 sqkm are under some form of protection either as protected areas, notified forests or ESZ. Therefore, imposing more restrictions on these areas would negate the objectives of conservation as this could be counter-productive.
“Apart from this, the Kasturirangan Committee had also recommended a number of financial incentives so that loss of livelihood and increased cost of economic activity can be compensated appropriately.”
“However, there is no mention of any financial incentives in the draft notification that could be offered to the affected states. Due to these reasons, the state government has opposed the notification in its present form.”
In the wake of unprecedented floods in Kodagu district in the last two years, environmentalists believe any move to reduce the ESA could be suicidal. It may be noted that the National Green Tribunal has barred any reduction in the area coming under the ESA after the Kerala floods two years ago.
Former Principal Chief Conservator of Forests, Karnataka, B.K. Singh, has been quoted as saying that the Western Ghats have already been plundered for development and infrastructure projects. “This in turn has impacted human lives. We need to place an embargo on further destruction and degradation of these forests. If the state doesn’t accept the Kasturirangan report, it will only keep open the floodgates of destruction. This decision is not in the overall interest of the people.”