NGT pulls up MoEF for no reports on W Ghat

PTI, NEW DELHI | 02 October 2013 11:07 IST

The National Green Tribunal (NGT) pulled up the environment ministry for not filing its final report on recommendations of two panels set up to study environmental sensitivity and ecological significance of the Western Ghats, saying better standards were expected from it.

A bench headed by NGT Chairperson Justice Swatanter Kumar also imposed a fine of Rs 25,000 on the ministry for failing to file the report despite being given four weeks time on August 30.

"We certainly expected better standards from the MoEF and compliance of directions issued by us. From beginning of April, this year, we have been going on with this process (of waiting for environment ministry's report). Since then you (MoEF) have not done anything. You had both reports with you since then," the bench said.

It also noted that several matters- related to Western Ghats and others- are pending before it as it was waiting for the stand of the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF).

The tribunal directed the chief secretaries of Kerala, Karnataka, Gujarat and Tamil Nadu, yet to file their views regarding the recommendations of the two panels, to submit their comments to the MoEF within two weeks.

If they fail to do so, not only would the MoEF be at liberty to "proceed in accordance with law and conclude its opinion" regarding the committees' recommendations, but the states at a later stage cannot contend that they were not consulted, the bench made it clear.

While imposing the costs on MoEF, the bench warned it that if the final report opinion is not placed before it by the next date of hearing the Environment Secretary would be directed to appear before the tribunal and listed the matter on November 12.

During the proceedings, the ministry contended it could not finalise its opinion on the reports of the Gadgil and Kasturirangan committees, as only Maharashtra and Goa have submitted their views of the six states whose comments were invited on the issue. Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Gujarat are yet to respond.

 

 In its report submitted to the MoEF in August 2011, the Gadgil Committee, also known as the Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel (WGEEP), had designated the entire Western Ghats as an 'ecologically sensitive' area.

The second committee headed by Planning Commission member K Kasturirangan which was set up to finalise the Gadgil panel's report had submitted its recommendations to the MoEF in April this year. While admitting its fault for not filing the finalised report regarding acceptance or otherwise of the suggestions of the two panels, the MoEF sought four weeks more to finalise its views after taking the opinions of the states.

The bench, however, was not pleased with the request of the ministry and said "You did not take any step to get the comments of the states. It is your fault. During all these months you could not get comments? You don't do anything for months. You should have come to us if they (states) were not responding. But you did not even file a single application."

The bench also expressed its displeasure with the affidavit submitted today by the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF), saying "your affidavit has no details, no particulars." "Yesterday, day before that, we have been telling you (MoEF) time and again that all records should be here. Somehow it does not go well with the ministry," the bench said, after noting that the affidavit did not say when the MoEF wrote to the states inviting their views on the reports of the two committees.

On August 30, the NGT by way of final opportunity, had granted four weeks time to MoEF to finalise its complete report regarding recommendations of Gadgil and Kasturirangan committees. It had also made it clear that if the NGT's orders are not complied with, the tribunal would be compelled to pass stringent orders in accordance with law.

The NGT was hearing a plea by NGOs from Goa, Kerala and Karnataka against grant of any clearance to any new project in ecologically sensitive Western Ghats and implementation of the WGEEP's report on the protection and preservation of the area.

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