'Local communities should be given rights to decide on environmental issues'

'Local communities should be given rights to decide on environmental issues'

Batting for a direct democracy over representation democracy, environmentalist Prof Madhav Gadgil said that the decision making rights on environmental issues should be vested in the hands of local communities, than with the elected representatives who form the government.

He was speaking at a State-level environmental workshop and public meeting organised by Janasangrama Parishat and Mangalore District Citizens’ Committee at Maligemane village in Kuduremukh National Park limits on Tuesday. He said that his report on the Western Ghats that was submitted to the government too focused on giving power to people in decision making on environment related matters.  

“Unfortunately, we have a top to bottom model in decision making, which should have been vice versa.” Recalling the High Court ruling in the case of Coco Cola company establishing its factory in a village in Palghat in Kerala, he said the Court had upheld the power of gram panchayats in making decisions related to issues having environmental impact. 

“Though we have several Acts like Panchayat Raj, Bio-diversity and Forest Rights Act, they have not been implemented effectively. If all the constitutional provisions and Acts are implemented properly, there will not be a necessity to declare eco-sensitive zones. And declaration of eco-sensitive zones for protecting the environment too does not bear fruit, if the related Acts are not implemented effectively,” he stated, as he pointed at how the Forest Rights Act has not benefitted the forest dwellers yet, due to lack of awareness about the provisions. 

Further, delineating the Forest Rights Act which provides enough space for the people to enjoy their rights and facilities, Prof Gadgil said the Act allows forest dwellers to avail the title deed for cultivation land upto 6 acre and also gives community forest rights, which allows them to reap profit out of forest products. More importantly, it allows for providing community facilities like laying of electric line and roads upto 10 hectare land per settlement, even inside the National Park range. 

Also, he took an exception at the argument that economy will slowdown due to environment protection, and said countries like Germany, Sweden and Norway set a good example on how economy prospers along with environment protection.

Social Activist and Samaja Parivarthana Samudaya Founder President S R Hiremath said that power should go back to people and every village has to be Republic.

Pejavar Seer Vishweshatheertha Swamiji inaugurated the programme.