Poor farmers, tribespeople and the downtrodden sections of society in six States would be adversely affected and the land mafia would benefit if the recommendations of the K. Kasturirangan Committee for the conservation of the Western Ghats were implemented, V.S. Vijayan, environmentalist and Director, Salim Ali Foundation, has said.
Speaking at a symposium organised by the Kerala State Council for Science, Technology and Environment (KSCSTE) here on Monday, Dr. Vijayan, who was a member of the Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel (WGEEP) headed by Madhav Gadgil, said the regulatory regime proposed by the WGEEP would have affected illegal mining, the tourism and construction lobbies, and the land mafia, with the benefits going to the poor and the socially backward.
Pointing out that Goa had lost Rs.35,000 crore due to illegal mining, Dr.Vijayan called for a commission to assess the damage caused by unauthorised mining to the ecosystem in Kerala.
He alleged that public protests and turmoil over the recommendations of the WGEEP were triggered by a concerted campaign launched by political parties and religious leaders to mislead the people in the high ranges in Kerala.
“The WGEEP report had nothing against farmers, industries, land use, housing or hospitals. Nowhere did it call for eviction of people.”
Dr. Vijayan said the WGEEP report was based on a bottom-up approach, with grama sabhas and panchayats involved in the decision-making process. In contrast, the Kasturirangan Committee report reflected a top-down approach involving Chief Ministers and department officials.
In his address, Kerala State Biodiversity Board Chairman Oommen V. Oommen said the three-member panel appointed by the State government to review the HLWG report had recommended a participatory approach to conservation. He said the KSBB was working on an action plan integrating biodiversity conservation with sustainable utilisation and access and benefit-sharing.
K. Ravi, former consultant on sustainable development, called for a new approach combining social, economic and ecological sustainability for the conservation of the Western Ghats.