Report of Madhav Gadgil-headed Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel
The report of the Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel (WGEEP) headed by Madhav Gadgil has generated much heat and dust in Kerala, with environmental activists and pro-development experts adopting diametrically opposing views. But meaningful debate on the issue has been hampered by the difficulty in comprehending the voluminous report and the lack of data analysis and interpretation. The Kerala State Biodiversity Board (KSBB) has taken the initiative to address this lacuna by bringing out a handy document on the aspects of the WGEEP report relevant to the State.
Titled ‘Understanding WGEEP: A Kerala perspective,’ the document has been prepared as a ready reckoner for local self-government institutions and biodiversity management committees to analyse the data and recommendations and use it to prepare conservation programmes at the grassroots.
“What we had in mind was to provide basic inputs for local bodies and policy planners to factor the WGEEP report into land use programmes and conservation strategies. It could also be useful for the general public to understand the report and its social implications,” says K.P. Lalladhas, member secretary, KSBB.
“Much of the debate on the issue is based on assumptions and baseless information. By providing a proper perspective in an easily-comprehensible format, we hope to dispel the misapprehensions and clear the air,” said Oommen V. Oommen, chairman, KSBB.
The document provides an extract of the WGEEP recommendations relevant to Kerala, with district-level maps showing the ecologically sensitive zones (ESZs) 1, 2, and 3 and the protected areas in different colours. At a glance, the booklet reveals that large parts of Idukki and Wayanad fall within ESZs 1 and 2. The map for Thiruvananthapuram shows that 69 local bodies including four municipalities and the city corporation fall within ESZs or protected areas.
“The WGEEP does not prescribe a blanket ban on development in all these local bodies. It does not recommend evacuation of people or restrictions on activities like housing. Only a very small fringe area of some of the panchayats or municipalities comes within the classified area, requiring restrictions on land use and conservation strategies. The exact boundary of the demarcated area can be easily made out by local mapping,” Dr. Lalladhas explains.
The document features an abstract of the local bodies falling within the area demarcated by the WGEEP. Starting with an overview of the WGEEP, it includes the relevant features of the report and the need for the panel and its assigned functions. It also features the boundaries of the Western Ghats in Kerala, the biodiversity of the region, the geographical landscapes of the Western Ghats in Kerala and vegetation.
One portion of the document is dedicated to the proposed Kerala model of conservation to be implemented in Udumbanchola taluk in Idukki, a project that finds mention in the WGEEP report. It also outlines the guidelines proposed by the panel for sector-wise activities.
“The English version of the document will be followed by one in Malayalam. We are also posting it on the KSBB website (keralabiodiversity.org) to ensure better public access,” Dr. Lalladhas said.