Gadgil says it’s premature to evaluate report

A working group headed by Planning Commission member K. Kasturirangan will assess the Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel (WGEEP) report and submit an action plan for its “effective implementation” to the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF).

The Ministry has asked the group to evaluate the report of the Madhav Gadgil panel in a “holistic and multidisciplinary fashion in the light of the comments” received from various stakeholders, including State governments and Central Ministries.

The group has C.R. Babu, former Pro-Vice Chancellor, University of Delhi; J.M. Mauskar, former Special Secretary, MoEF; Kanchan Chopra, former director, Institute of Economic Growth, Delhi; Jagdish Kishwan, Additional Director-General of Forests (Wildlife), MoEF; Darshan Shankar, Chairman, Institute of Ayurveda and Integrative Medicine, Bangalore; Sunita Narain, Director-General, Centre for Science and Environment, New Delhi; and P.S. Roy, Director, Indian Institute of Remote Sensing, Dehradun, as its members. Indrani Chandrasekhran will be a special invitee.

It will also study the “effects and challenges of climate change in the ecologically significant Western Ghats region,” “the implications of the UNESCO heritage site recognition of some parts of the Western Ghats” and the constitutional implications of Centre-State relations regarding the conservation and sustainable development of the region.” It is also expected to “recommend further course of action” regarding the report within two months.

Preserving biodiversity

The group is also expected to look into the “imperatives of equitable economic and social growth of the region in the most sustainable manner with special attention to the preservation of the precious biodiversity of the Western Ghats and to prevent further degradation of the same.”

Rights of locals

It will also focus on the “rights, needs and development aspirations of local and indigenous people, tribals, forest dwellers and the most disadvantaged sections of the local community recognising the importance of equitable economic and social growth being harmoniously balanced with sustainable development and environmental integrity.”

The Gadgil panel report was released nine months after it was submitted last year. The Ministry had sought the views of six State governments and 11 Central Ministries on the report.

It had also given time for the public to respond to the findings of the panel.

“Masses not heard”

Prof. Gadgil said it would be premature for the group to assess the comments and the report as the views of a majority of the stakeholders had not been obtained. Till now, only the views of some elite groups were taken leaving out the masses in the region, he said.

Mr. Gadgil suggested that the group get the views of the WGEEP. However, there are no indications that the group is open for discussions with the panel. V.S. Vijayan, a member of the panel, feared that if the report of the working group turned out to be against the views of the government, there would be another committee to assess the report.

The working group should give an opportunity to the WGEEP to explain its views. It should also elicit the views of the general public, Dr. Vijayan said.

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