A decade after Gadgil report, Western Ghats left in the lurch

Jishnu EN

The ecologically fragile Western Ghats demand timely intervention by the people and the state. The Gadgil report was viewed by many as a definite step in the right direction. 10 years have passed since the submission of the document. But no concrete action plan is still in place.

Western Ghats. Photo: Mathrubhumi|Sajan V Nambiar

Kozhikode: It was exactly 10 years ago that the Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel (WGEEP) headed by Dr Madhav Gadgil submitted its report to the Union Ministry of Environment and Forest. The report which was not initially made available to the public was accessed through an RTI query.

The suggestions of the committee triggered huge protests in Kerala, especially in the high ranges. Farmers, backed by the church and political parties, protested against the recommendations which they feared would result in their eviction from the Ghats. Environmentalists argued the measures suggested are necessary to protect the Ghats.

The Union Government then appointed another committee, a high-level working group, headed by K Kasturirangan. According to environmentalists, this committee watered down the scientific report of the Gadgil committee. However, farmers were not ready to pay heed to that either. Environmentalists alleged the protests were led by quarry and sand mafia.

'We have to look at the interests at stake here. Real farmers want to protect the environment. The farmers I have met in the meetings which discussed the Gadgil report supported it,' said Prof. T P Kunhikannan, Kerala Sasthra Sahithya Parishad (KSSP) activist and environmentalist. He says mafias played a huge role in organising the protests. However, there are real concerns for farmers which have to be addressed, says Kunhikannan.