SC verdict: Unwilling State to implement Gadgil panel report
In the wake of the Supreme Court verdict that the Madhav Gadgil panel report will be valid till any other report on the subject is approved by the Centre, the Kerala Government will have to implement the report against its decision.
The verdict has come as a major setback to the state government which had opposed the panel report.
Following the apex court’s observation, the state has withdrawn its appeal before the court against the National Green Tribunal (NGT) directive to implement the panel report. The Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel, led by Madhav Gadgil, had come up with a bunch of recommendations related to preserving the ecology of Western Ghats.
There were recommendations to categorise the entire region as various eco-sensitive zones, which will further lead to limited permission for construction activities.
“There could be setbacks for illegal miners, quarries and sand mining activities. The panel does not limit any developmental activities. Also, we haven’t recommended anything against farmers. The sentiment against the report is primarily due to lack of awareness about the recommendations that we have made. Tourism and construction lobbies might have to suffer once it is implemented,” pointed out former chairman of Kerala State Biodiversity Board V S Vijayan, also member of the Gadgil panel.
The Kerala Government and a section of the society had opposed implementation of the panel report, terming it ‘anti-development’ in nature. The Gadgil panel had recommended against implementation of controversial projects like Athirappilly hydroelectric project.
The state had pointed out that if construction activities along the Western Ghats and Coastal Regulation Zones are prohibited, it would have a negative impact on economic activities.
Also there was a general sentiment that if implemented, the panel recommendations would affect farmers in the state. Following this, a section of political parties, Church leaders and Karshaka Sangham came out against the report.
After the Gadgil panel submitted its recommendations, the Ministry of Environment and Forests had appointed another panel led by Kasturi Rangan to evaluate the recommendations of Gadgil panel. It was against this backdrop that the Goa Foundation approached the National Green Tribunal.
“The state government should have taken measures to distribute copies of the panel report at grama sabhas and collect people’s responses. Instead, the government made its own conclusion based on political leaders’ opinions,” Vijayan pointed out.