BENGALURU: Environmentalist Madhav Gadgil says he never expected his report on the Western Ghats to be accepted by the Government of India.
In the city recently to deliver a special lecture on the Western Ghats, he told Express, “More pervasive in the globalised world of today, the destruction of environment, along with that the livelihoods and health of people, do not directly affect those who stand to gain from the ongoing processes.” He also blamed the political class for promoting interests like mining.
“We did not expect our report on Western Ghats to be accepted or implemented,” he said. He noted that the report was possibly one of the few formally commissioned ones which actually said what was going on. By rejecting it, the Constitution is being violated, he felt. “The 73rd and 74th amendments to the Constitution give substantial authority to local bodies and gram sabhas to make decisions,” he said.
Environmental and democratic laws are being violated in the Western Ghats by groups that have messed up the environment for the sake of so-called development, he added.
Large mining companies are not concerned about either the loss of natural beauty or the suffering of people. “These are also people who have immense economic and political clout,” he said.
He also cited the case of a multinational beverage company which had set up a plant at Plachimada in Palakkad of Kerala. “The factory over-exploited ground water in the region. Wells have dried up and there is hardly any ground water. The panchayat and local people protested about the loss of livelihood. The Kerala government appointed a committee that fixed `160 crore as the official estimate for their loss and said the company must pay the local people the said amount. The President has not enforced this. This study is also in the report,” he said. Gadgil emphasised that the report quotes the Natural Forest Policy which states 66 per cent of natural cover must be preserved.
“There is no possible justification for rejecting the report. However, I am encouraged by the fact that it has been discussed by people. I do not expect the government will do anything positive on its own,” he said. He reiterated that the Kasturirangan report was regrettably a perversive report and unconstitutional as it did not recognise the role of local people in economic decision-making.