It was a bitter pill for the State government on Monday as the Supreme Court held that the Madhav Gadgil committee report on the Western Ghats would be valid till the Centre approved any other report on the subject.
Following the court’s observation, the State withdrew its petition challenging the National Green Tribunal’s decision to consider a petition by the Goa Foundation seeking orders for implementing the Gadgil committee report. The tribunal had ordered that the panel’s suggestions should be followed while implementing projects such as those requiring mining in Zone One of the Ghats.
The State government has been opposing the report on the ground that the implementation of its suggestions would jeopardise development programmes.
Kerala had argued that the “blessings of nature would become a curse for the people of Kerala because if all development and economic activities are prohibited in the Coastal Regulation Zone and the Western Ghats, there would be no area left for the people of Kerala to survive.”
The State had feared that a few projects, such as the Athirappilly hydroelectric project and the Sabari railway project, would have to be shelved if the panel report were to be implemented.
A section of the Church and a few political parties had opposed its recommendations.
Commenting on the developments, Mr. Gadgil said the States should act rationally on the subject. However, no State seemed to have done so.
V.S. Vijayan, member of the panel, suggested that the State government get the report translated and discussed in grama sabhas before forming its view.
Ideally, the State government should have waited for the views of the public after holding informed discussions at the grassroots levels. Instead, the government listened to the views of political parties.
The legislators should have taken the lead in discussing the report in their constituencies, which had not happened, Dr. Vijayan said.
A. Latha of the River Research Centre, Chalakudy, said the State was opposing the panel suggestions to cover up the large-scale violation of environmental laws taking place in ecologically sensitive areas of the State. Mining was one such illegal activity progressing in many parts of the Ghats region. In many cases, the Environment Protection Act and the Forest Conservation Act were blatantly violated.
She said the tribunal’s order to follow the panel’s suggestions while implementing projects such as those involving mining in Zone One of the Ghats might have irked the State government.