The Kerala Assembly on Thursday adopted a substantive motion proposing that the Madhav Gadgil Committee report recommending measures for conservation of the Western Ghats should be implemented only after wider consultations, and with public participation.
The impractical proposals in the expert panel report should not be approved. A practical approach incorporating the developmental needs of the people and localities should be adopted while taking measures for protection of the Western Ghats.
The motion was moved by Chief Minister Oommen Chandy at the end of a nearly three-hour debate in the House on the panel report, and was adopted without anyone opposing it. It said that the House discerned the concerns of the people regarding the report.
Winding up the discussions, the Chief Minister said that he was confident that harmony could be achieved between protection of environment and development. The government was willing to hold discussions to arrive at a consensus on the proposals in the report.
Mr. Chandy said that whatever steps were to be taken for protection of the Ghats would be done only in a manner that would not harm the farmers living in the Ghat areas. “We agreed with proposals regarding ban on genetically modified crops, plastic and planting of exotic trees. But the biggest flaw of the report was that it adopted a grid of 81 sq km for demarcating ecologically sensitive areas.”
He noted that the Western Ghats lay across six States and all of them had objected to the report. In view of the opposition, the Centre had set up an expert panel headed by K. Kasturirangan to review the report. Kerala had sought a hearing and the panel was expected to visit the State for the hearing shortly.
During the debate, the members showed clear divide over various proposals of the Gadgil panel. Each interpreted the proposals in their own ways.
The “Green” legislators generally supported the proposals while members from Idukki district strongly opposed many of the recommendations. T.N. Pratapan said that the demarcation of any taluk as sensitive did not mean that the entire taluk was a sensitive area. The Gadgil committee itself had said that the panchayats could undertake finer demarcations. Several of the proposals were in tune with existing government policy. V.D. Satheesan said that mafias were behind spreading various rumours and misleading information about the report.
However, other Congress members, including the Chief Minister, did not share this view.
Raju Abraham (CPI-M) said that the report was intended even to upset the functioning of pilgrimage centres such as Sabarimala. “The report is a steel bomb coated in sugar. It will (negatively) affect half the population of Kerala,” he maintained.
The motion seeking the discussion was moved by the deputy leader of the CPI (M) in the House Kodiyeri Balakrishnan who said that the report would cause far-reaching consequences and make life impossible in several areas.