Madhav Gadgil stands his ground

He says WGEEP report is an ecological milestone for all the Ghats States

Updated - June 30, 2022 08:09 pm IST

Published - June 30, 2022 08:08 pm IST - KOCHI

The Western Ghats as seen from Walayar.

The Western Ghats as seen from Walayar. | Photo Credit: MUSTAFAH KK

A decade after the Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel (WGEEP) report authored by a group of experts led by him redefined the State’s socio-political and ecological concerns and narratives, Madhav Gadgil stands his ground. 

In hindsight, Dr. Gadgil feels that no course correction is required for the report, which many consider as an ecological milestone for all the Ghats States, including Kerala. 

“I stand 100% by whatever has been said in the report. By and large, I feel that the report has had a positive impact on the ecology of the country. The panel decided on the high, middle and low ecological sensitivity of the Ghats regions based on scientifically identified criteria. The panel report also brought to light specific evidence and corrupt practices of bureaucracy, especially the Forest department,” he asserts.  

When asked about the biggest impact of the panel report, Dr. Gadgil says it has increased the awareness of the people on the adverse impacts of the actions of the authorities that are implemented under the guise of development. 

He had expected the barrage of violent protests that greeted the WGEEP report in States such as Kerala. 

“I had fully expected the violent opposition to the report from vested interest groups. I foresaw the protests. There were concerted misinformation campaigns against the document. In some States such as Maharashtra, contents that were never part of the original report were included in the Marathi translation of the report to mislead people,” he says. 

The Maharashtra government uploaded the Marathi version of the report in which it had deliberately included some tyrannical measures as if suggested by the panel. The uploaded report was far from what the panel had originally proposed. He feels that vested interest groups resorted to a planned misinformation campaign as they could not oppose the recommendations of the panel. 

When it comes to Kerala, it was a good thing that the Kerala Sastra Sahitya Parishad brought out an accurate Malayalam translation of the report. The State machinery was misused in some Ghats States for deliberately spreading patently wrong and false contents of the report, he says. 

Madhav Gadgil

Madhav Gadgil | Photo Credit: LEJU KAMAL

“Even when faced with the misinformation campaign, I was sure that it wouldn’t last long. The back-to-back floods, landslips, and other ecological disasters States such as Kerala are experiencing are making people understand the need for conserving the ecology and look at the panel report from a different perspective. The WGEEP report is making more sense to people. These days, people are becoming more and more receptive of the report,” he feels. 

While formulating the report, the panel upheld constitutional values and the constitutional framework, he argues. The report put forward the right path for development without unduly destroying the ecology and in the right spirit of democracy, says the ecologist. 

The panel itself had suggested that the report should be translated into regional languages and discussed at grama sabhas and their views obtained. The report was prepared in the most transparent and democratic way, he says. 

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