The ‘greens’ in Kerala have come out against the state government’s stand on the Madhav Gadgil panel recommendations. Instead of opting for a pre-emptive approach against the report, the government should have adopted participative planning, thereby making it more ‘conservation-oriented’, they feel.
“There is a misconception among the public that the ecologically fragile lands (EFLs) and the proposed ecologically sensitive zones (ESZs) are the same.
“The state government’s actions have created an impression among a section of people that if an area is declared as ESZ, then the land would be taken over. In fact, nowhere in the report does the panel recommend the government to take over land.
ESZs come under the Environmental Protection Act (EPA) and there is no recommendation for land acquisition in the name of ecology. Ideally, the government should have taken steps to clarify the misinformation.
We should not waste an opportunity to be part of an ecologically sensitive planning process,” pointed out A Latha of the River Research Centre.
It has also been pointed out that there are misconceptions regarding the recommendations on the phased decommissioning of the dams in zone one.
The state government should have carried out a consultative meeting with the representatives from various sectors, the environmentalists pointed out.
The state government’s demand to include a compensation package if the panel recommendations are implemented, too has come under severe criticism.
“On the contrary, once the ESZs are declared, the government can approach the Centre for more funds. Also, what can be said about the track record of the Kerala government in providing compensation to the victims of developmental projects?” asked the environmentalists.
In its dissent note on the panel recommendations, the Kerala government had pointed out that hydroelectric power generation is essential for an agrarian state like Kerala. Setting up of the Western Ghats Ecology Authority has also been opposed by the state.
Meanwhile, former chairman of Kerala State Biodiversity Board V S Vijayan, who was part of the Madhav Gadgil panel, made clear that no where in the report there are recommendations against farmers.
“The recommendations are in favour of promoting agriculture in general and organic farming in particular. Organic farming would be ideal for ESZ I and II also if there is already agricultural activities going on.
The panel has not suggested land take over in ecologically sensitive zones. It’s not an anti-development report.
“We have proposed decentralised development. Local panchayats should be given the authority for taking decision regarding such projects,” Vijayan said.