Saturday, June 1, 2013

An Ecologist's Passionate Plea To Protect The Western Ghats

In March 2010 the Ministry of Environment and Forest, India,  constituted the Western Ghat Ecology Expert Panel to study and recommend protection for the ecologically sensitive Western Ghat region. The panel was headed by Dr. Madhav Gadgil. It came up with the idea of a  graded approach to protection, essentially sequestering some areas from any mining and other development,  limited development in other areas and so on. Central to their philosophy of protection was that the voice of the local people be heard. All decisions regarding development would be taken only after extensive consultations with the people of the villages being affected by various developmental projects.

The Indian government, both Central and various State bodies did not like this plan. They undertook what is becoming a depressingly familiar route. They constituted another committee termed "High Level Working Group" to relook the original recommendations. Predictably, the new report by this high level group guarantees protection for a much smaller region of the Western Ghats and does not see a role for village level committees to participate in decisions regards protection and development.

Dr. Madhav Gadgil has come out strongly against this new report headed by Dr. K. Kasturirangan and has written an open letter to him in The Hindu:

An excerpt-

India’s cultural landscape harbours many valuable elements of biodiversity. Fully 75 per cent of the population of lion-tailed macaque, a monkey species confined to the Western Ghats, thrives in the cultural landscape of tea gardens. I live in the city of Pune and scattered in my locality are a large number of banyan, peepal and gular trees; trees that belong to genus Ficus, celebrated in modern ecology as a keystone resource that sustains a wide variety of other species. Through the night I hear peacocks calling, and when I get up and go to the terrace I see them dancing.

It is our people, rooted in India’s strong cultural traditions of respect for nature, who have venerated and protected the sacred groves, the Ficus trees, the monkeys and the peafowl.

Apparently, all this is to be snuffed out. It reminds me of Francis Buchanan, an avowed agent of British imperialism, who wrote in 1801 that India’s sacred groves were merely a contrivance to prevent the East India Company from claiming its rightful property.

It would appear that we are now more British than the British and are asserting that a nature-friendly approach in the cultural landscape is merely a contrivance to prevent the rich and powerful of the country and of the globalised world from taking over all lands and waters to exploit and pollute as they wish while pursuing lawless, jobless economic growth. It is astonishing that your report strongly endorses such an approach. Reality is indeed stranger than we can suppose!

And here is another article by Dr. Gadgil and Ligia Noronha on the subversion of the Gadgil report. 

1 comment:

  1. God save western ghats,
    Govt is not keen on this, Selfish politicians.
    I feel so sad..