Core Issues

Western Ghats Report- A Rejoinder

Dr KM George (
1) The Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel headed by Dr. Madhav Gadgil must be thoroughly examined along with Dr. Kasturirangan report holistically taking into account the felt needs of the inhabitants and the sustainability concerns at large by the panel constituted by the Government of Kerala. It is no good to sit on judgement on the competence of the panel of experts like Dr. Ommen, Dr Rajasekharan Pillai and shri PC Cyriac. In fact, shri Cyriac by virtue of being the erstwhile state chief secretary and Rubber Board chairman, is eminently qualified to gauge the gut feelings of the stakeholders and the compulsions of environment.
2) The norms as suggested to declare regions and places as “over sensitive” judged by the population density must be realistically and rationally re-examined. The norms must have universally comparable and comprehensive yardsticks. The set of norms applied in Tamil Nadu and Karnataka must be applied in Kerala also.
3) Even the KPCC panel of the so called experts from Palakkad, Wynad, Idukki and Kottayam must consult the stake holders taking into consideration the national interests of ecology and sustainability coupled with stake holder apprehensions.
4) Dispassionate views and criteria based on actual field realities must have the upper hand in deciding the “ over sensitive areas” in the Western Ghats across the country. Regions like Coorg,Neelgiris,Ootty, Kodaikanal, Munnar, Kattapana,Kalpetta,Wagmon and the like must have the same objective criteria to consider them either in or out. The objective criteria must be independently verifiable and measurable!
5) As done in Tamil Nadu from the early 1960s manmade water harvesting Tanks during the rainy season may be take up in Kerala on priority to conserve the monsoon waters. It may be practised with the help of development agencies like NABARD and SHGs in all villages. The erstwhile water bodies in Kerala like open wells, “Chiras”, rivers must be cleaned and deepened and wherever possible check dams may be constructed.
6) Free power connections given to agriculture by KSEB in the early stages of Green Revolution must be done away with and it may be priced to save power and to contain the misuse of water and power in otherwise power starved Kerala.
7) Excessive water absorbing trees and plants must be identified and in such fields compulsory water harvesting tanks to be made mandatory on the owners- operators, -while seeking commodity board licence and subsidy etc even in small parcel of land too.
8) Peoples participation in development must be ensured by involving the NGOs, SHGs, Farmer Clubs, Senior Citizen Forums, Retired Professionals, Religious Groups, Youth Groups, ,etc depending on the need and importance of growth centres and focal points making use of the principles of area planning and spatial planning. Lead Banks may be made responsible to hold such meetings to augment the process of development.
9) Sensitisation programmes may be organised in every Panchayat under the Lead Bank scheme and the development officers of the banks may be made in charge of convening such meetings and presided over by RDO of the concerned Taluk.
10) Political parties must refrain from the narrow and petty considerations of fishing in troubled waters. Development vision must be made the rule of the day. Politics must accord unequivocal importance to balanced regional development than short term gains.