New Delhi: The National Green Tribunal has asked the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) to take expeditious steps to finalise the report of Gadgil Committee or any "other panel" set up to study the environmental sensitivity and ecological significance of the Western Ghats.
A bench headed by NGT Chairperson Justice Swatanter Kumar has granted the MoEF three weeks time, as a last opportunity, to finalise the report and place it before the Tribunal.
"Needless to notice that this is a matter of some urgency and it is expected from the MoEF to take expeditious steps to finalise acceptance or otherwise of Gadgil Committee Report or any other Committee Report.
"As prayed, we grant three weeks time to the MoEF by way of last opportunity to finalise the report and place before the Tribunal its clear stand," the bench said, and listed the matter for further hearing on April 25.
The NGT passed the order on April 2 after Kerala submitted that non-finalisation of the Gadgil panel report is affecting the state`s commercial activities and development.
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.
Meanwhile, the counsel for MoEF has submitted that the tenure of the working group, headed by Planning Commission member K Kasturirangan, set up to finalise the Gadgil panel report has been extended till April 15, the day when the complete report would be made available to the ministry.
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.
Earlier on May 30 last year, the NGT had issued notices to Maharashtra, Karnataka, Kerala, Goa, Gujarat and Tamil Nadu and had sought their replies on the NGOs` plea to implement the WGEEP report.
The WGEEP, which had categorised the region into three classes according to their ecological sensitivities, had in its report recommended that no mining should be allowed in the Western Ghats in Goa.
For mining activities in areas in other two categories, the WGEEP had recommended that no new licenses should be given and where mining exists, it should be phased out in five years.
The committee had also recommended that no new polluting industry should be allowed in the regions of the first two categories and non-polluting industries may be allowed with strict regulation and social audit.
Terming the Western Ghats as "hot spots of biodiversity", the NGOs` petition stated that the region harbours the largest global populations of the Asian elephant and other mammals such as the tiger.