Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel (WGEEP) constituted by the Ministry of Environment and Forestry (MOEF), Government of India, in its report, has classified the 142 taluks (in 44 districts in six states) in the Western Ghats boundary into Ecologically Sensitive Zones (ESZ) 1, 2 and 3. It recommended that “no new dams based on large-scale storage be permitted in Ecologically Sensitive Zone 1. Since both the Athirappilly of Kerala and Gundia of Karnataka hydel project sites fall in Ecologically Sensitive Zone 1, these projects should not be accorded environmental clearance,” it said.
The panel has also suggested the formation of a Western Ghats Ecology Authority (WGEA), a statutory authority which enjoys the powers under the Environment (Protection) Act. “The WGEA should function in a networked fashion with six constituent State Western Ghats Ecology Authorities, appointed jointly by the State Governments and the Central Ministry of Environment and Forests,” it has proposed.
The panel was asked to assess the current status of ecology of the entire Western Ghats region, demarcate areas within the region that were to be notified as Ecologically Sensitive Zones and make recommendations for the conservation, protection and rejuvenation of the entire area. Panel was asked to identify ‘No Go’ areas in the Western Ghats where no development would be allowed as well as to identify areas where development needs to be regulated considering the environmental sensitivity and ecological significance of the region.