Madhav Gadgil disapproves Kasturirangan report

'Though Forest Rights Act provides lot of power and freedom to forest dwellers, they are not aware of the Act and most of their rights'

Disapproving the Kasturirangan report on Western Ghats, environmentalist Prof Madhav Gadgil said that he was astounded at the Kasturirangan’s report which states that local communities have no say in economic decision making. 

Speaking to reporters on the sidelines of an environmental workshop at Aladangady on Tuesday, Prof Gadgil said that sidelining the role of local communities in decision making is purely unconstitutional. “As a member of planning commission, before he was made the chairman of the committee, he had made me the chairman of a committee for 12th plan formulation on environmental issues. And I had presented in detail the Western Ghat ecology panel data base in a planning commission meeting and had requested him that the planning commission take this forward. He was fully aware of what we were doing. Just to dress up or give his report in better light, he (Kasturirangan) made all sorts of false claims about his methodology,” Gadgil said.

Clarifying that the Forest Department has no role in imposing restrictions on the Forest Rights Act, he said that every decision is in the hands of Revenue Department. Though Forest Rights Act provides lot of power and freedom to forest dwellers, they are not aware of the Act and most of their rights.

To a query on the eviction of forest dwellers with compensation packages, the environmentalist said that as per the Forest Rights Act, they cannot be evicted even from the National Park. They have the right to live with proper facilities. "It is the government’s duty to explain all the rights to the people and after understanding the rights, people can decide whether they would go for the rehabilitation package or not. With the rights, they might have a much higher level of economic well-being and enticement will not work.”

On the increased man-animal conflict, he said the conflict should be resolved not by the current system of prohibition and compensation. Local people should be motivated, which will allow cropping of wildlife with the involvement of gram panchayath. There are some good examples of co-existence through proper management, the professor said.

He also advised on taking cue from Germany, where decentralisation of governance, environmental protection, stable economy and high industrial progress has gone hand in hand. 

Answering to a query on the trust run by environmentalist Ullas Karanth promoting rehabilitation of forest dwellers, Gadgil insisted on a public discussion where both can present their worldviews. “Let him present his evidences on eviction and compensation as a solution to the problem,” he said.

Gadgil refused to comment on the controversial Yettinahole project, as he said he had “no specific understanding of the project.”

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