In February 2010, then Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh attended a public meeting in Kotagiri in Tamil Nadu organised mainly by those associated with Save the Western Ghats group. Speakers pointed to threats to the ecosystem from construction, mining, industries, real estate, and hydropower. After the meeting, Ramesh set up the Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel under Gadgil. The panel was asked to make an assessment of the ecology and biodiversity of the Western Ghats and suggest measures to conserve, protect and rejuvenate the entire range that stretches to over 1500 km along the coast, with its footprints in Gujarat, Maharashtra, Goa, Karnataka, Kerala, and Tamil Nadu.
What did the Gadgil Committee say?
It defined the boundaries of the Western Ghats for the purposes of ecological management. The total area in this boundary came to 1,29,037 square km, running about 1.490 km north to south, with a maximum width of 210 km in Tamil Nadu and minimum of 48 km in Maharashtra. It proposed that this entire area be designated as ecologically sensitive area (ESA). Within this area, smaller regions were to be identified as ecologically sensitive zones (ESZ) I, II or III based on their existing condition and nature of threat. It proposed to divide the area into about 2,200 grids, each approximately 9 km × 9 km, of which 75 per cent would fall under ESZ I or II or under already existing protected areas such as wildlife sanctuaries or natural parks.