Ecologist and bio-diversity expert Madhav Gadgil has flayed the single-minded approach of looking at development in mere terms of eight per cent or nine per cent GDP growth, while remaining unmindful of capital losses suffered in terms of social, human and ecological capital.
A former professor of Indian Institute of Sciences – Bangalore, he headed the Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel (WGEEP) and his report drew opposition from various quarters as it called for tier classification of almost the entire Western Ghats under the ecologically sensitive area. This led to government appointing a 10-member High-Level Working Group (HLWG) led by K. Kasturirangan, who was formerly with Indian Space Research Organisation and it submitted the report on Wednesday.
Not going into the details of the contents of the HLWG report and how it differed with the WGEEP recommendations, Mr.Gadgil said, “the country has enough laws to protect ecology and environment and it is unfortunate that ecological governance had been poor.” Development had to be harmonious and environmentally sustainable. Explaining further, he pointed out that man-made production could not be the only indicator of development. But, for achieving this GDP, there should not be depletion of natural capital (water, land, agricultural production and soil fertility), human capital (health, knowledge and conventional knowledge) and social capital. On HLWG bringing down the area of restrictions in the Western Ghats, Mr. Gadgil said if the restrictions to development had to be confined or limited to reserve forests, national parks, sanctuaries and wildlife reserves, then the existing Forest Protection Act and Wildlife Protection Act, were sufficient enough.
On Tamil Nadu opposing his recommendation for a Western Ghats Ecology Authority (WGEA), Mr. Gadgil said that the WGEEP went by the mandate given to it. “It was not that WGEEP mooted such an authority out of its own accord and it was asked to moot the same besides defining its powers and roles”. On the theory that WGEA would give room for the Centre to arrogate itself with the powers of the State, Mr. Gadgil pointed out that the Authority mooted had room for adequate representation for Central and State governments, and even the local self governments and was well within the federal spirit of the Constitution, he added.
On Athirapally power project in Kerala, Mr. Gadgil said the project proposal was filled with rampant economic, engineering and ecological violations. Kerala engineers were unable to respond to the queries of the WGEEP during a meeting and any justification offered by them was just “anti-science, anti-law and anti-democracy”, he said. On what needed to be done immediately for saving the Western Ghats, Mr. Gadgil believed that the Western Ghats that happened in the water tower of Peninsular India, required careful management of resources and eco-systems.