Says it ignores the interests of the people

The Syro-Malabar Church has come out strongly against the recommendations of the Madhav Gadgil committee on the Western Ghats, terming it part of an international conspiracy to allow foreign countries and big companies to exploit the masses by pushing them back by two centuries on the pretext of environmental protection.

The circular, issued by Bishop Mathew Anikkuzhikkattil for the churches under his diocese, Idukki, said the contents of the report provided enough material to suspect the intention. It said the report criticised the development achieved by the nation and the plan of action followed for achieving it.

While the Kerala Catholic Bishops Council (KCBC) had taken a principled stance on environmental protection, it had made it clear that the church was against “environmental fundamentalist extremism,” the circular said.

Dubbing the report as one serving “vested interests,” the circular said it was totally oblivious to the interests of the people, and if implemented, would turn thickly populated areas into protected forests. The people now living in the area would have to move out voluntarily. The circular said the report was “anti-development” and would lead to devastation of the agriculture sector. Positions that marginalised the people and denied them their rights should be opposed collectively, it said.

Pointing out that the report included 14 taluks in the State, including the four in Idukki district, under Zone One, it said this would bring in 57 restrictions, including denial of title deeds, ban on construction of buildings, use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides, disruption of hydroelectric projects, ban on single crop cultivation and construction roads, and so on. It said the recommendations of the report were against those made by the Swaminathan Commission for agricultural revival in the district. The suggestion to hand over the ecological security of the area to the Western Ghats Environmental Authority would only help to bring in another administrative structure over the existing one.

It hoped the Kasturirangan Committee constituted to review the Gadgil panel recommendations would visit the areas involved and elicit responses from the people living there.