Panaji, May 18 (IANS) Ecologist Madhav Gadgil has picked holes in former ISRO head K. Kasturirangan’s high-level working group (HLWG) report on the environmentally sensitive Western Ghats, saying it endorses “exploitation” of the region’s natural resources.
Gadgil, a Padma Bhushan awardee, added that the report also favours the “rich and powerful of the country and of the globalised world”.
Former Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) chief Kasturirangan had been roped in by the Ministry for Environment and Forests to head the 10-member HLWG to advise the central government on the recommendations made by the panel on how to conserve the Western Ghats.
In his report, Gadgil had advocated major curbs on the mining industry in Goa. He said that instead of holistically preserving the ghats, which serve as a water repository for the entire south western region, the Kasturirangan report was actually opening it up for economic exploitation, while at the same time paying lip service to conservation.
“In our report to the Ministry of Environment and Forests, based on our extensive discussions and field visits, we had advocated a graded approach with a major role for grass-roots level inputs for safeguarding the ecologically sensitive Western Ghats,” Gadgil says in his open letter released Saturday.
“You have rejected this framework… You advocate a partitioning amongst roughly one-third of what you term natural landscapes, to be safeguarded by guns and guards, and two-third of so-called cultural landscapes, to be thrown open to development, such as what has spawned the Rs.35,000 crore illegal mining scam of Goa,” he further said.
Accusing Kasturirangan of harbouring a imperialist mindset, Gadgil said that the approach of his report was similar to the manner in which the “imperialists British” construed sacred groves and forests in rural India “merely a contrivance to prevent the East India Company from claiming its rightful property”.
The Western Ghats stretch over kilometres, starting near southern Gujarat and Maharashtra to Kanyakumari in Tamil Nadu, stretching across six states: Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Kerala, Goa, Maharashtra and Gujarat.
The ghats, which also account for six major rivers that flow out of the mountains into the plains of these states, has been listed by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation as one of the top eight bio-diversity hotspots in the world.
While Gadgil in his report had recommended that blanket protection for the entire Western Ghat region, the HLWG headed by Kasturirangan had carved out zone for protection as well as for “restrictive development”, something which has irked the former.
“Ecology teaches us that such fragmentation would lead, sooner, rather than later, to the desert overwhelming the oases,” Gadgil said, adding that he “could never have imagined” that an eminent scientist like the Padma Vibhushan winning Kasturirangan could ever be party to such a report.