Says the panel suggested empowering grassroots people
Madhav Gadgil, chairman of the Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel, has rolled up his sleeves and slammed the Kasturirangan report.
Kasturirangan report on Western Ghats replaced the pro-people and pro-nature attitude of the Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel report with an autocratic approach in terms of development and ecological conservation, said Madhav Gadgil, chairman of the panel.
Mr. Kasturirangan, in his report, wondered how local communities can have a role in the economic decision-making process of the country. The report had kept vast stretches of Western Ghats in the category cultural landscapes, which include human settlements, out of the purview of ecologically sensitive areas. The sacred groves of Kerala, which are rich in biodiversity, would come under the category. If the Kasturirangan report is accepted, any builder could raze the sacred groves and construct structures there, he said.
The panel chairman was in the town to deliver a lecture on protection of Western Ghats. The event was organised by the Indian Association of Lawyers (High Court Unit).
Mr. Gadgil said the panel report was completely distorted to give the impression that it recommended to halt all economic activities.
The report suggested that the Grama Sabhas should decide on the Ecological Sensitivity of the respective areas. People should decide in which ecologically sensitive zone their area should come under. The prerogative for deciding whether their area was to be considered even as a sensitive area was left to the people. The recommendation of the panel regarding the ecologically sensitive zones was just an indicator to start the debate, he said.
Environment history of the world would tell one that no country the in the world had ever initiated action on its own for ecological conservation. It came from people’s initiative. The thrust of the panel report was that people should be allowed to exercise appropriate powers for conservation, he said.
Referring to the decision of the Plachimada Panchayat to cancel the license for Coca Cola factory functioning in their area, Mr. Gadgil said the Supreme Court had upheld the right of the local body to take such a decision. People at grassroots levels really care for environment health as it is directly linked to their lives. People at the grassroots should be empowered to make appropriate decisions, he said.
The panel even recommended that people should be incentivised for conservation efforts like shifting to organic farming, Mr. Gadgil said.