Gadgil report must to save Ghats

"Theforests, onceexploited, maynotbeable toregenerate."

The fate of the Western Ghats, one of the world’s biodiversity hotspots, again hangs in balance with the Central government indicating the implementation of a third, more-industry friendly, version of the Madhav Gadgil report on safeguarding the tropical forests.

The Kasturirangan report, which followed the Gadgil report and diluted its recommendations, has itself reportedly been frowned upon by the Modi dispensation. The BJP-led government has indicated that it will not allow environment concerns to stall
development projects. 

The fear among ecologists, therefore, is that concerns over the fate of the Western Ghats may be shoved aside in favour of industries and other projects awaiting clearance in the region.

If that indeed happens, it will in all likelihood ravage the Western Ghats and the precious biodiversity they hold. Already, the Ghats that spread across several states have seen considerable encroachment, erosion and indiscriminate development, the consequences of which cannot be determined in the immediate future. Nor can one say for sure how the damage will affect weather systems, rainfall patterns and the livelihoods of thousands.

In the immediate future, regularising human settlements and allowing industries to continue in and around the Ghats may provide jobs and security to those who have made the region their home. But once the benefits have been milked dry, it is anyone’s guess whether the forests there will ever regenerate.

Underestimating the value of the forests and the accompanying bio-diversity is bound to have disastrous repercussions in the medium to the long term. What is scary is that once the forests are sacrificed they cannot be put in place again, at least not for the next several generations. While one is not naive to suggest that the choice before the government is simple, the hope is that, all things considered, the government must think long-term and not pander to the immediate demands of those who worry they will lose their livelihood if existing industries are shut and new ones not allowed to start.

The government must inform people owning industries in the Western Ghats and others who work in them that it will benefit the entire country, region and by extension, the whole world, if strict measures are adopted to safeguard the forests even if it means they have to look at other locations and options to continue with their businesses and livelihood. The state governments must be taken into confidence, too. In short, the government should opt for the more stringent Madhav Gadgil report, as that seems to be the only way to stall the destruction of the Western Ghats, and protect what remains.

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