Environmentalists, farmers, political leaders and representatives of the church who attended a seminar held here on Saturday on ‘Kerala and the Kasturirangan Report on Western Ghats’ came down heavily on the findings of the report for different reasons.
While environmentalists found fault with the report for diluting the original proposal of the Madhav Gadgil Committee on Western Ghats Conservation, others blamed it for proposing ‘draconian measures’ without taking into account the feelings of the affected communities. The seminar was organised by Xavier Institute of Management and Entrepreneurship at Kalamassery in the city.
Noted environmentalist M.K. Prasad blamed the report for not addressing the problems concerning Western Ghats as a whole. “It talks about only 37 percent of the total landscape of Western Ghats. Most of that area has already been protected and preserved under various biosphere reserves, sanctuaries and national parks. It was not a scientific panel and most of its recommendations were not scientific,” he said. According to Mr. Prasad, the commission has taken an unrealistic approach in the case of water management in Western Ghats apart from constructing and decommissioning of dams. P.C. Cyriac, former Additional Chief Secretary of Tamil Nadu and member of the expert committee on Western Ghats constituted by the Kerala Government, said both the Gadgil and Kasthurirangan reports failed to reflect the worries and concerns of the local communities and the reports were prepared in a hurry, incorporating only the views of experts. He also termed involvement of farmers in conservation as vital. Former MP and Kerala Congress (M) leader Francis George said the Kasturirangan report totally ignored concerns of farmers in the region and treated them as mere encroachers. “Most people in the area had migrated on a request from the government under schemes like ‘grow more food’ and ‘high range colonisation’. The government had once promoted migration to work in cardamom plantations and engage in the construction of hydel projects,” he said. Green technology expert M.P. Sukumaran Nair suggested more studies and scientific approach in bringing about conservation strategies for Western Ghats.
Fr. Mathew Chandrankunnel, who represented the Catholic Church, accused the Gadgil and Kasturirangan committees of playing second fiddle to unrealistic environmentalists ‘who cared only for the flora and fauna.’
He wanted liberation of environmental protection from ‘eco-extremism and eco-terrorism’. Institute president J. Philip presided over the programme.