Kerala, K'taka ignored eco reports at their own peril

Kerala, K'taka ignored eco reports at their own peril

Karnataka and Kerala have gone the Uttarakhand way, assert noted ecologist Madhav Gadgil and well-known scientist Krishnaswamy Kasturirangan.

The two, in their separate reports on the fragile Western Ghats, had pressed for the formation of eco-sensitive zones to ensure that a buffer is maintained and there are no calamities. They had stressed on planned development, especially on the hilly terrains. But politicians of the two states, besides the central government, put the reports on the backburner.

Land-use pattern

The two experts told DH, “This is a man-made disaster. Instead of indulging in corrupt practices and clearing unscientific proposals, the land-use pattern should have been documented. The government did not learn lessons from other states.”

Repeat of Uttarakhand

“Due to pressure from various quarters the reports were put on the backburner. The rain is historical and unprecedented. Development should not just be real estate. Development has many aspects - clean water, clean air and health. This is being ignored not just here (Karnataka and Kerala) and Uttarakhand, but all over the country,” Gadgil said.

Kasturirangan said very good laws exist, but are not strictly followed. The ministry of environment and forests had set up an expert panel in 2010 and entrusted Gadgil with the task of finding ways of conserving the Western Ghats. Gadgil’s ‘Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel report’ in 2011 was not implemented by the governments. The report of Kasturirangan’s ‘High-Level Working Group on Western Ghats,’ in 2013, was also not implemented.

The two had documented the land use and recommended the formation of eco- sensitive zones (ESZs). However, the zones defined in the two reports were different. The two reports had recommended that restrictions be imposed on mining, quarrying, thermal and hydel power plants in the ESZs. They had also cautioned against heightened tourist activities. They had pointed out rampant encroachment of forests, buffer zones, wetlands, streams and rivers.