Environmentalists under the banner of the Western Ghats Protection Council has said there is a concerted move in Idukki district to limit the debate on the environmental crisis to the Madhav Gadgil report with a view to diverting people’s attention from the real issue.

Environmentalist John Peruvanthanam said the present drought situation was the worst in Idukki district, especially in the high ranges, with perennial streams drying up.

One should not forget the role of the Western Ghats in preserving the climatic conditions. If the streams flowing from the high ranges had dried up before the summer season, it was a signal that there was an environmental catastrophe in the near future, he said.

“If environmental protection of the Western Ghats is possible through the Madhav Gadgil committee recommendations, everyone has a responsibility to support it for a green Kerala,” Mr. Peruvanthanam said.

The signature campaign against the Gadgil panel report was with an ulterior motive. “For settler farmers, what is needed is a favourable climate and action to protect the environment,” he said, adding there were differences in the terms encroachers and settlers.

“For the settlers, a favourable climate was needed for their survival and for encroachers, nature is a means to accumulate wealth - without having concern for the natural wealth. The settlers had never engaged in quarrying, timber trade and tourism business,” he said.

Those who supported the airport project and multi-storey buildings in the name of tourism promotion were supporters of the corporate lobby, Mr. Peruvanthanam said.

He said a campaign had been started among the farmers and youths about the need to protect the Western Ghats.

Environmental activist M.N. Jayachandran said there was a direct link between drought and environmental degradation.

The main reason for the present drought was the loss of paddy fields, wetlands and uncontrolled mining in the Western Ghats.

Mr. Jayachandran said quarrying in the district was above the permissible limit. He said even while Chief Minister Oommen Chandy acknowledged that the State was facing the worst drought, he seemed to be in no hurry to do anything to protect the environment.

A long-term solution was needed to tackle the environmental crisis, he said, adding that the recommendations in the report should be taken in the right perceptive.

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