‘Save Western Ghats’ campaigners will convene a meeting on November 30

A ‘Save Western Ghats’ movement is taking shape in the State in the wake of fierce opposition to the proposals for protecting the ecosystem of the mountain range.

Organisers of the campaign are planning to convene a meeting of the political parties and legislators from the State on November 30 at Thiruvananthapuram.

The need for protecting the mountain range and the ways in which it was supporting life in the States through which the Ghats runs would be explained to the legislators, said poet Sugathakumari, who is involved in the campaign.

The meeting is being convened by Paristhithi Aikya Vedi, a confederation of organisations and individuals campaigning for environment protection.

Ms. Sugathakumari, who led the ‘Save Silent Valley’ campaign in the late 70s, said that time was ripe for a similar movement in the State as a section of the church and political parties had even gone to the extent of challenging legislations such as Forest Conservation Act 1980, which helped in protecting the remaining green patches in the country.

If the Silent Valley campaign was for saving the rainforest ecosystem, the new campaign was to save the entire Western Ghats and protect the farmers and their livelihood options.

The Silent Valley campaign was fought between the Kerala government and the green campaigners. Here, a section of the church and political parties were opposing conservation efforts, she said.

Ms. Sugathakumari said that no one had ever suggested evicting the farmers or discouraging agriculture in the Ghats region.

The conservation campaign would focus on the rights of farmers and oppose the uncontrolled quarrying and sand-mining, which was destroying the ecosystem and livelihood option of millions in the six Ghats States, she said.

V.S. Vijayan, a member of the Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel (WGEEP), said the pastoral letters which were read out in churches recently painted a wrong picture about the recommendations of the panel. Some recommendations were even distorted. No panel had suggested ban on construction of houses and use of cement and steel for construction. Attempts would be made to set the record straight, he said.

Addressing concerns

The Salim Ali Foundation, led by Dr. Vijayan, has distributed around 6,000 copies of a booklet, Gadgil Committee report — Yaadharthyangalum Aashankakalum (Gadgil committee report-reality and concerns). Copies of the report would be despatched to the local bodies in the Ghats region. A publication comparing the WGEEP report and Kasturirangan report would be released in Malayalam and English soon, he said.

“Around 20 groups campaigning for protecting the Western Ghats have been formed in Wayanad. Similar movements are also taking shape in Idukki. These groups were requested to join hands with Paristhithi Aikya Vedi,” he said.

Dr. Vijayan was also critical of the State government’s failure to discuss the Kasturirangan report in the State Assembly. The Assembly, which welcomed some suggestions of the WGEEP, had sought clarifications on some other points in the report. However, the Kasturirangan report was never discussed in the Assembly.