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Gadgil committee recommendations on Western Ghats ideal, practical: Experts

Times of India, Delhi, 29th August 2014

 

City-based environmental activists and experts have said that recommendations of the Madhav Gadgil committee on protecting an area of 60,000 sq km in the Western Ghats are more important than the ones made by the K Kasturirangan panel. Both the committees were formed during the tenure of United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government. In May, the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance came to power, which recently stated that it would pursue the recommendations of the Kasturirangan committee and that of the Madhav Gadgil panel. On Wednesday, the National Green Tribunal received a communication from the Union environment ministry stating that it had brought draft notifications declaring ecologically sensitive areas in the Western Ghats spanning six states in the country.

 

The Gadgil committee's recommendations were found inconvenient to the Union as well as state governments, as it has put several restrictions on the projects that would damage the ecology of the ghats. The UPA government had formed a Western Ghats ecology expert panel, which was headed by Pune-based ecologist Madhav Gadgil. Madhukar Bachulkar, a city-based environmentalist, said, "The recommendations of the Gadgil committee are ideal and practical. The key recommendation is taking the villagers residing in ecologically sensitive areas into confidence, making them aware of any project coming into their localities and letting them decide whether they want the project to commence or not.

 

A strong opposition from villagers on several developmental projects has been witnessed across the country." He said the Gadgil panel has recommended considering a tehsil as a unit and addressing all the villagers about the importance of ecology around them. Such education will enable the villagers to take care of the environment rather than appointing more officials to look after it, he said. "Gadgil panel has recommended that 94-97% area of the Western Ghats should be considered as eco-sensitive. Hence, any developmental activity should be given green signal on the grounds that it would not disturb the lifestyle and ecology of the region. On the other hand, the Kasturirangan committee has stated that only 34-37% area in the entire Western Ghats is eco-sensitive.

 

It is to be noted that Gadgil himself is an ecologists and hence, knows better about environment conservation than former government bureaucrats," Bachulkar said. P D Raut, head of the environment department, Shivaji University, said, "As many as 120 rivers originate in the Western Ghats having 3,500 dams. The dams are useful for hydroelectric power generation and irrigation purposes. These dams are also major source of drinking water to lakhs of people. If mining or chemical projects are set up in the eco-sensitive zones or very close to the forest area, it will have a direct impact on the natural resources.

 

It would contaminate river water and increase pollution in the region. Such projects will directly affect the people dependent on river water and dams." Jay Samant, another expert on environment, said, "We must understand that the villages located in the Western Ghats have no easy access to information. Gadgil has clearly asked educating the villagers about his report, which he had filed in English. These people have been misguided by the local politicians that the report is against their well-being. Hence, such villagers have been opposing the Gadgil panel recommendations since the last 3-4 years." "Unfortunately, the new government is also in favour of exploiting Western Ghats than conserving and protecting it," he added.