Say mystery shrouds the anger and violence against Kasturirangan report

Environmentalists are surprised at the war cry being raised against the K. Kasturirangan committee recommendations for protection of the Western Ghats in the State. Compared with the eco-friendly suggestions in the Gadgil committee report, those in the Kasturirangan report were for development along with protection, they said.

“An element of mystery shrouds the anger against the Kasturirangan report, which was not witnessed in the case of the Gadgil report,” a group of environmentalists told The Hindu. “We still support the implementation of the Gadgil recommendations with some modifications, if necessary,” they said on condition of anonymity.

They said it was surprising that those who had been fighting against projects detrimental to the environment had taken a U-turn. The agitation was claimed to have been triggered by the fear of eviction but the Kasturirangan report did not mention anything about eviction.

Also no new restrictions on permits, except for structures of 20,000 sq m and above, had been recommended at villages in ecologically sensitive areas (ESAs) in the report. A casualty of the agitation would be the threat to democratically acceptable decentralisation process for project permits in the ESAs. The violence would create a situation where no one would be allowed even to talk on the project’s impact on environment, they said.

The area of the Western Ghats covering six States had not been clearly identified. Various data put it between 1,36,800 sq km and 2,60,962 sq km. The Gadgil committee had identified the area as 1,29,037 sq km with width of 48 km to 210 km.

The Kasturirangan committee, using resource satellite, had identified 1,64,280 sq km under the Western Ghats with width of 10 km to 200 km.

While the Gadgil committee recommended protecting 90 per cent of the Western Ghats area identified by the panel, the Kasturirangan committee suggested protecting 36.49 per cent of the identified area.

This was because the latter report had demarcated 81,239 sq km covered by farms and recommended protection of only 59,940 sq km, which was the stipulated 36.49 per cent earmarked as “natural landscape”.

They said replacing the Gadgil panel recommendations with the Kasturirangan committee recommendations had similarities to the replacement of the Coastal Regulatory Zone Act 1991 with the Coastal Management Zone Notification 2011.

The greens said buffer zones were mandatory for true protection of the core forest area. In Kerala, only the core forest areas remained as true forests as the buffer zones had been encroached upon. The Kasturirangan report suggested only conditional protection of the buffer zone.