Kumaraswamy says government has failed to enlighten the people on Ghats report

The ongoing protests against the Kasturirangan committee’s report on the conservation of Western Ghats in Kerala could be driven by political and economic interests, and will affect the State’s prospects in the long run, according to B.M. Kumaraswamy, former member of the Western Ghats Task Force, Government of Karnataka.

Prof. Kumaraswamy, who is here to participate in the national conference of the Swadeshi Jagaran Manch (SJM), blamed the State government for its failure to enlighten the people on the provisions of the report and the need to conserve the Western Ghats for generations to come.

“There is nothing in the report to suggest the displacement of people from the 123 villages coming under the proposed Ecologically Sensitive Area (ESA). Yet vested interests were able to create a fear psychosis through scaremongering in Kerala,” he said.

Cash cow

The Western Ghats, he said, represented a cash cow for Kerala.

“You cannot afford to kill that cow. The flow of rivers, monsoons, medicinal plant resources, and agriculture here depends on the ecological health of the Western Ghats. Conserving this ecology is crucial for the State to safeguard its potential in several areas such as ecotourism and Ayurveda. You are not losing anything by conserving,” he said.

Terming the protests as organised and not spontaneous, he said both the ruling and the Opposition parties in Kerala were playing vote bank politics with the issue. The government, he said, could have averted the situation by taking the people into confidence and educating them on the issues.

Prof. Kumaraswamy said this was in sharp contrast to Karnataka where 1,526 villages were listed as ESA. “Despite this, the situation remains calm there,” he said.

Climbdown

He said the report of the High Level Working Group (HLWG) headed by Kasturirangan was a big climbdown from the position of the Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel (WGEEP) chaired by Madhav Gadgil that had proposed 1,200 villages in Kerala to be classified as ESA.

Prof. Kumaraswamy, who piloted a resolution on the protection of the Western Ghats at the SJM meeting, stressed the need to resurrect the report of the WGEEP that had been prepared after discussions with grama sabhas. He highlighted the need for a participatory field survey to supplement the satellite data that was used by the HLWG to demarcate the ESAs.

The resolution urged the Centre to withdraw the HLWG report and the implement the WGEEP report to protect, preserve, and enrich the biodiversity of the Western Ghats for ecologically sustainable development of India.