Ecologist Madhav Gadgil has faulted the wrong development priorities for the environmental degradation of the Western Ghats.
The over-exploitation of natural resources hurt the ecology of the Western Ghats, he said in a talk on ‘Western Ghats development and the future of Wayanad’ held at Kalpatta on Thursday. It was not the local communities that directly depended on the Western Ghats for their livelihoods, but the profit-driven exploitation for industrial consumption that led to the current degradation.
He said the top-down decision-making process on development policies and project implementation ignored the environmental fragility of the region. Local communities and panchayats had little role in this system of decision making. Policies made at the top were being imposed on the local bodies and local communities, thus proving to be anti-people and harmful to the environment.
Speaking about the Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel, which he had chaired, Mr. Gadgil said the committee had made certain broad guidelines and recommendations. These had to be translated into Malayalam and discussed at the panchayat ward level, and based on these discussions required measures needed to be taken. This did not take place and, instead, decisions were made at the top level.
The decisions regarding ecologically fragile land (EFL) was one such. These led to land alienation of several tribal families as well as local communities which was not the intention of the panel's recommendations. The committee's concept of ecologically sensitive area was different from the ecologically fragile land. The use of the two terms synonymously caused a lot of confusion too.
Mr. Gadgil visited the Puthumala area where a series of landslips last month took several lives and caused vast devastation.