Thursday, March 23, 2023

Supreme Court issues notice in appeal against NGT order on Western, Eastern Ghats

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The Supreme Court has on Monday issued notice in a civil appeal filed against the order of the National Green Tribunal, seeking directions to the Centre to form a permanent body for preservation of the Western & Eastern Ghats and to implement recommendations of Madhav Gadgil and Kasturirangan committees.

The bench of Justices S. Abdul Nazeer & Vikram Nath sought the response of the Union of India, Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Tamil Nadu, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Goa & the Kerala state pollution control boards. The bench has tagged the present plea with a pending similar issue.

The present civil appeal has been filed against the order dated December 22, 2021, passed by the National Green Tribunal, in Original Application 100 of 2021, wherein the Tribunal had disposed of the matter filed by K. S. Radhakrishnan in view of the direction passed on the same day in Execution Application No 19/2019 in O.A. No 597/2018, Goa Foundation Vs Union of India. In that matter, the NGT granted six more months to Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, to finalise the notification for Western Ghats.

The petitioner, K. S. Radhakrishnan, alleged that NGT left the major issue with regard to the Eastern Ghats unattended without hearing his bonafide contentions, leaving the issue in hand unattended.

The petitioner has alleged that the Tribunal did not consider the ground raised by them in the application and reiterated during the hearing. Moreover, instead of deciding the application on merits the National Green Tribunal relied on the arguments advanced by the counsel in the case of Execution Application No. 19/2019, in Original Application No 597/2018, titled as Goa Foundation Vs Union of India and without even appreciating the facts are entirely different, has passed the impugned order without following the principles of natural justice.

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Before the NGT, the petitioner had sought certain directions for preservation of ecological balance on the Western and Eastern Ghats

A. To direct the Respondents to take effective/ science-based action to preserve Biological, Environmental and Natural status of Western Ghats and Eastern Ghats by due formation of a permanent body for safeguarding the same on the basis of Madhav Gadgil and Kasturirangan Committee Recommendations and to implement and execute the same in its true spirit.

B. The Tribunal may kindly take the cognizance on a leading and emerging environmental issue had led to serious illegalities and irregularities.

C. To direct the respondents to take effective measures to prevent huge encroachment in the water bodies coupled with destroying of forest wealth.

D. To direct the Respondent Authorities to formulate and place on record strategy/scheme to prevent the Western Ghats and to file its report before the Tribunal.

The petitioner has highlighted the importance of Western and Eastern Ghats. The Western Ghats, also known as Sahyadri, is a mountain range that covers an area of 1,40,000 square km in a stretch of 1,60,000 km parallel to  the West Coast of the Indian peninsula, traversing the states of Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka, Goa, Maharashtra and Gujarat. Of the entire area of the Western Ghats in so far as Tamil Nadu is concerned, the same spreads over 28,200 square km followed by Kerala to an extent of about 28,100 sq km, Goa 1,075 sq km and Maharashtra 58,400 sq km and Karnataka 43,300 sq km. The natural resources which are abundantly available in these areas are being better and properly utilized by other regions except by Tamil Nadu.

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The area is one of the world’s ten “hottest biodiversity hotspots” and has over 7,402 species of flowering plants, 1,814 species of non-flowering plants, 139 mammal species, 508 bird species, 179 amphibian species, 6,000 insect species and 290 freshwater fish species; it is likely that many undiscovered species live in the Western Ghats. The Eastern Ghats are a discontinuous range of mountains along India’s eastern coast. The Eastern Ghats run from Odisha through Andhra Pradesh to Tamil Nadu passing some parts of Karnataka as well as Telangana. They are eroded and cut through by four major rivers of peninsular India, viz. Godavari, Mahanadi, Krishna, and Kaveri. The cradle of the Eastern Ghats is in Villupuram district in Tamil Nadu.

The plea further alleged,

“Unfortunately, these prominent mountain ranges are under tremendous stress, degradation and due to human greed, population pressure, un-sustainable development, apathy by public, negligence by public servants, etc. Also, tribes living in these hills for ages have been exploited by wealthy, politically strong mafia. There is an urgent need for the Tamil Nadu Government to intervene. It should take effective and earnest action to save the major biosphere from ruthless hands.”

Furthermore, the petitioner submitted that the Central Government and the governments of the six states in which the Western Ghats is situated-Gujarat, Maharashtra, Goa, Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu “to have completely failed in their duty to protect the Ghats, and have instead allowed its destruction over the years”.

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Therefore, he seeks to set aside the order of the National Green Tribunal and to save the Western and Eastern Ghats from more destruction by implementing recommendations of the Madhav Gadgil and Kastuirangan committees.

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