Belgaum Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI) has demanded early implementation of the ‘Sahyadri Ecologically Sensitive Area' project.
A delegation of the BCCI, which met Mr Jairam Ramesh, Union Minister for Forest and
The project envisages protection of large contiguous forests, traversing boundaries of Karnataka, Goa and Maharashtra, under the Environment Protection Act (EPA). It shall consequently help check rising temperatures and rainfall in Belgaum district, which are adversely affecting agriculture and the people through regular flooding, and the city that is facing water shortages.
Also key for implementing ‘Sahyadri Ecologically Sensitive Area' is that the Western Ghats around Belgaum are being undermined and destroyed at an increasing pace. Forests are being lost, degraded and fragmented for private and illegal gain through encroachments, tree felling and forest clearance for illegal or poorly planned development including mining. Mr Jaideep Siddannavar, President, BCCI, said, “One needs to make a beginning and the Sahyadri Ecologically Sensitive Area proposal submitted to the Ministry is one such endeavour. We recognise that the Western Ghats Ecology Expert Committee (WGEEP) and the MoEF (Ministry of Environment and Forests) are in the process of identifying ecologically sensitive areas (ESA) in the Western Ghats.”
“But the recent notes circulated by the WGEEP about rethinking the ESA and making it more broad-based with the involvement of local public bodies are a cause for worry. We do recognise the need for consultations at all levels, but we also see the need to keep focus on the larger picture,” he added.
BCCI, which submitted a memorandum to the MoEF, said forests in Western Ghats are the birth place of two rivers — Mahadai (that becomes the Mandovi River, which is Goa's lifeline) and Mallaprabha (a major tributary of the Krishna, a lifeline for the Deccan region).
Mandovi river is crucial for transport in Goa, and it is also a source of livelihood for thousands who depend on it for fishing. The river and its estuary act as breeding ground for numerous species which support commercial marine fishery.
The Mallaprabha river is a critical source of drinking and irrigation water in northern Karnataka. These forests also provide ecosystem services other than their functions as water catchments, pollinators for crops and fruit trees, climate moderation, flood control (in recent years, the district has become prone to flooding.). Most of these ecosystem services have been little understood and much less quantified or recognised.
According to Mr Mallikarjun Jagajampi, Secretary, BCCI, “The activities like poaching, unsustainable removal of natural produce, poorly planned or unjustified developmental activities are all undermining biodiversity conservation and eco-tourism potential in Western Ghats.”
“Illegal or poorly planned mining is resulting in our mineral being depleted with little gain for the country, its people or future generations,” he added.