"We already have many rules at present protecting the Western Ghats from all activities. So what is the point of declaring it an Eco Sensitive Area (ESA)," asked Karnataka Forest Minister R Shankar.

He was speaking to MyNation regarding Karnataka not being in favour of declaring Western Ghats as ESA.  

Shankar said that people anyway flout rules. Four States out of six covering the Western Ghats - Karnataka, Kerala, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu have said no to declaring the zones in their respective States as ESA.

Explaining the reason, he said that Karnataka is not adamant not to say yes to the notification by the Centre. But practically now, any activity including sand mining has been halted. No development work including road construction is being taken up in this zone, he added.

The minister said that the recommendations made by Kasturirangan Committee and the rules currently followed by Karnataka in terms of activities in forest areas are almost similar. So, there is no need to implement another rule, making the life of people more difficult, he said.

There are plenty of rules, including Forest Conservation Act 1980, to get permission for any work to be conducted because it is a forest zone. So it is not easy to start any work there. Thus, as already many laws are in place, there is no point in declaring the zone as ESA to curb activities, he said.

Also Read: Kerala floods: Who is responsible for disaster - man or supernatural powers?

Shankar also spoke about people finding ways to flout rules. For example, he said if people are restricted not to own more than 100 acres of land, they will seek permission for 99 acres.

However, the first notification to declare 56,825 sq km of Western Ghats under ESA was sent in 2014, but was rejected by Karnataka, Kerala, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu. These States refused to oblige as they stated it would affect development work and people living in that area.

But after Kerala floods, which have been allegedly attributed to permission for excess plantations, sand mining and destroying of forests, the discussion of Madhav Gadgil committee report submitted in 2010 and scientist K Kasturirangan report of 2013 came to fore.

Madhav Gadgil committee report recommended 75% of Ghats to be declared as ESA and Kasturirangan committee limited it to 37%. Gadgil committee report was criticised for only keeping in mind the environment and completely neglecting the need for development activities. But it can be noted that even Kasturirangan report was not accepted by the States.

In fact, there were reports that in Kerala, sand mining lobbyists threatened people, stating that if they support the move of turning certain regions of the Western Ghats into ESA, they'll be made to vacate their houses and abandon their livelihood. This led to widespread protests by people, ultimately forcing the State government of dropping the plan of even considering the report.

As Karnataka forest minister Shankar said, are activities including development work really curbed or are people still flouting rules, putting these sensitive zones in danger?