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Kasturirangan Panel Report on Western Ghats , Discuss

Western Ghats Ecological Expert Panel (WGEEP) Report commonly known as Madhav Gadgil Report that was promulgated by the ministry of environment and forest (MoEF) on may 23, 2012 aftermath a huge pressure from concerned sections, though the report was with UPA government since Aug 2011. The Gadgil committee had encyclopedic and exhaustive analysis of the environment problems that harass the entire western Ghats , an eccentric ecosystem in the world that extends across 6 Indian states encompassing more than 1.6 lakh sq. km. it is the first scientific and official report on the entire Western Ghats that came up with broad based peoples participation and brought to light to the ecological significance of the region, exposed the touch of free corporate encroachment on the fragile ecosystem of WG and on the indigenous population that survives on resources from forest based field level data collection, case studies , public hearing ,peoples movement etc.

The report has absolutely claimed that forest mafia, mining mafia, corporate thugs with connivance of central and state government has plundered and leaded beyond redemption of the forest including very rare flora and fauna of this region.

Rather than to endorse and sustain the report , the UPA government has set up High Level Working Group (HLWG) headed by Kasturirangan, space scientist and member of planning commission during 2012 , exactly one year after the Gadgil panel has submitted its report.

Unlike the Gadgil report which clearly mentions the details of the methodology adopted, the data sources used, field studies and interviews made and which proposes an intense debate and discussion on the report among the people and concerned sections for its healthy implementation in a democratic way, Kasturirangan report does not give any of the data sources or studies used for drafting the report. The report evolved without the people involvement or their any direct interaction with them in any of the 6 states in any manner. Ironically, though Gadgil was invited for a discussion by Kasturirangan, the views expressed by the Gadgil were nowhere recorded in Kasturirangan report. Motivated by the corporate greed, without working on grass root level, simply based on remote sensing technology and aerial survey, the panel has identified only the visible forest areas as ESAs completely leaving out vast regions of ecologically fragile landscape, endangered flora and fauna as documented by IUCN that needs urgent protection from mafia encroachment.

According to Kasturirangan committee only 37% of the natural landscape of 164280 sq. km area of Western Ghats is ecologically sensitive covering about 60000 sq. km. spread across 6 states where destruction impact on environment is prohibited. However in reality these areas being already protected as it covers mostly national parks, dense forest and heritage sites etc. According to Indian forest law 66% of the hilly areas has the forest cover in Western Ghats but if Kasturirangan report has been accepted then this no. will be directly reduced to half. It is believed that this move is motivated by the desire to serve the forest quarry mining mafia in different states.

To sum up ,as declared by UNSECO ,that Western Ghats are unique in itself and must be protected at any cost , Gadgil committee was extremely strong step though it was not endorsed which resulted in setting up of Kasturirangan Report. Anyhow the terms and condition given in it must be strictly abided also, it must be checked regularly to add new amendments so that India could simultaneously take a strong step towards development along with protected ecosystem.

Ashish Rawat