‘An impression is being given that it recommended halting economic activities’

The report of the Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel, which was submitted to the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests in 2011, continues to be misinterpreted by political parties and governments in Kerala, Goa and Maharashtra, ecologist Madhav Gadgil has said.

Mr. Gadgil said at a State-level convention on ‘Save the Western Ghats’ here on Sunday that although he had openly expressed displeasure over the issue several times, it was of no use.

“The report has been completely distorted to give the impression that it recommended halting all economic activities,” he said.

“Those who are opposing my report are raising points, which I have said in a different context, and are misinterpreting it. Although this has been brought to the notice of the Centre several times, they chose to ignore it,” he said.

Reiterating that the mining, forest and real estate mafia and corporate firms were encroaching upon forest land under the pretext of development, Mr. Gadgil said they continued to exploit the Western Ghats. “The governments did not like my report as I pointed out this aspect,” he said.

“The report never says that coffee and arecanut should not be cultivated in the Western Ghats. Some people are trying to create a controversy using this point. Before the final report was made, we had submitted a gist of the report to the then Environment Minister, Jairam Ramesh. It was only after he suggested some changes that we drafted the final report.”

He said the report, which was being discussed in Kerala, Goa and Maharashtra, did not receive much attention in Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. While the Malayalam translation of the report in Kerala is creating some awareness, the Marathi version in Maharashtra had been twisted and misinterpreted, he said. He said local people should be empowered to make decisions on their environment as they were the ones who cared for their surroundings.