Says governments are indifferent to the environmental cause

Totally unwarranted is the swift dismissal of the Madhav Gadgil report on the Western Ghats by the state government of Kerala and Karnataka, renowned environmentalist Claude Alvares has said.

None of the provisions in the report prescribe any anti-development measures, Mr. Alvares said, delivering the 11 commemorative lecture on journalist N. Narendran’s death anniversary at the Press Club on Friday.

The lecture titled ‘Why governments are hostile to the Environment’ centred around the Madhav Gadgil Report and on how indifference of the political system to the challenges environment faced made the ecology of one of world’s coveted hotspots fragile.

“We can see how we are doing phenomenal damage to our ecological system and yet the political system is not taking cognisance of it,” Mr. Alvares said.

Prior to delving into the details of the report, he brought up the issue of the absentee monsoon, and how much of human interference could possibly be affecting the seasonal cycles in the country. “I have never considered the possibility of the monsoon being something that could be tampered with,” said Mr. Alvares, explaining the conclusions of a recent report that stated that thermal pollution in the Indian landmass lead to an equalisation of temperature differences over land and the ocean, thereby leading to a situation when the monsoon would simply fade away.

Calling the monsoon a ‘Maa-Baap’ figure, Mr. Alvares emphasised how vital this “free subsidy” was, for everything was premised upon the availability of it. “A large-scale imbalance is being generated by our activities,” he said, lamenting that the leaders of the country were like “a train heading to one direction, which is eight per cent growth”. “They just refuse to accept that the economy which they are working with is basically a subset of the ecological body,” he said.

He cited instances that indicated that the governments had not even studied the Gadgil Report closely enough, for they were dismissing recommendations such as one that pertained to not growing any Genetically Modified crops in the Ghat region. “Had the government pinpointed exactly what points they were against, further discussion could have been arranged,” he said.

Mr Alvares added that the Western Ghats were one among the 12 ecological hotspots in the world and yet the government was even unwilling to translate the report for panchayats in the area, as suggested by Gadgil.

“We live in the freest country in the world, we were empowered to be bombs, but we have been reduced to mere firecrackers,” said Mr. Alvares, on the need for a concerted public campaign to urge governments to accept the recommendations contained in the Madhav Gadgil report.