Geological Survey of India (GSI) on 3 August 2014 in its preliminary report, pointed deforestation and leveling of ground for agriculture (with heavy machinery to flatten land), as the primary cause for landslide in Malin village in Ambegaon taluka of Pune, Maharashtra. GSI will submit its study report of their findings to the government within twenty days.
It also accused excessive water used for cultivation of paddy together with continuous heavy rain contributed to the landslide in Malin village that lies on the foothills of the Western Ghats. The landslide swept over the Malin village on 30 July 2014 and claimed life of at least 108 people.
In its recommendation, the experts proposed stopping paddy farming in the area as an immediate step. This would prevent any further disintegration of surrounding hills.
Notably, Malin village is one of the three high-risk villages in the region marked Ecologically Sensitive Areas by the Kasturirangan Committee report on Western Ghats.
Previous Committees and Reports on developmental activity in the Western Ghats
Madhav Gadgil Committee: to study the impact of the so-called developmental activity in the Western Ghats, the Union Environment Ministry in 2009 appointed a committee that was headed by an ecologist Madhav Gadgil. The panel was asked to recommend the kind of development projects that would suit the ranges.
In August 2011, the committee submitted its report to the government and in its report it divided complete Western Ghats into three categories and they were
a) Ecologically sensitive zone (ECZ) I
b) Ecologically sensitive zone (ECZ) II
c) Ecologically sensitive zone (ECZ) III
• For ECZ I – it in its recommendation suggested the government to phase-out all mining activity by 2016
• For ECZ II – it asked the government to give no new mining permission for mining and polluting industries like coal-based power plants. It also asked the government to issue strict regulation and guidelines for existing and operational projects with regular social audits
• For ECZ III – it proposed change in the use of land use; it asked to deviate from agriculture to non-agriculture uses. It also asked the government for ECZ III that the developer of the industrial, infrastructure and tourism project should be asked to take measures to mitigate environment and socio-economic changes
But the Gadgil committee’s report was not accepted by the government after state governments’ accused the report to be too harsh and it should not be accepted.
Following the pressure of the state governments, center once again appointed a new committee led by former chairman of Indian Space Research Organisation, K Kasturirangan.
K Kasturirangan committee in its report recommended reduction of the ECZ I from 67 percent of total area of Western Ghats to 37 percent. It was also not accepted by the central government due to the protests of state governments, terming it too restrictive and will hamper the economic development.
When: 3 August 2014