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Ghats prone to disaster if delay in conservation


The business interests who have stakes in granite quarrying, real estate, timber and tourism, are opposing western ghats report

BiodiversityThiruvananthapuram: The extremely fragile Western Ghats region is highly prone to natural calamities and chances of an Uttarakhand-like tragedy in the region cannot be ruled out if scientific conservation initiatives are not being implemented at the earliest, says a leading environmentalist.

Significantly, the foreboding has come at a time when the state is in a dilemma over implementing the Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel report drawn up by noted ecologist Madhav Gadgil.

While business interests having stakes in granite quarrying, real estate, timber and tourism, who thrive in the biodiversity hotspot for decades, are opposing the report, the UDF government is under pressure to implement its salient recommendations.

According to Prof V S Vijayan, former chairman of the state Biodiversity Board, also a member of Gadgil committee said that the commercial interests with the support of political parties are trying to create tension among people and making false propaganda against the report.

“The Ghats region is highly prone to natural calamities like that happened in Uttarakhand recently. Indiscriminate plundering of natural resources and illegal and unscientific constructions have made it geologically fragile. Those who are agitating against the Gadgil report should try to understand the facts first before making a hue and cry,” Vijayan told PTI.

“The natural forest cover in the region has dwindled to seven per cent. Most of the rivers have dried up and waters are contaminated in the rest of them. Hills are also slowly disappearing due to quarrying,” he said.  Dismissing the argument that the Gadgil report is “anti-development” and “anti-farmer”, he said it is a pro development report to the core but it wanted development initiatives in the region to be carried out in a sustainable manner.

“Development process has to go on. Livelihood of people should be met. But, these all should be achieved in a sustainable manner, without causing any more harm to the biodiversity and environment there,” he said.

Gadgil committee report has evoked sharp criticism from various quarters including the mainstream political parties in all the six states concerned-Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Gujarat and Goa-through which the Western Ghats is spread over.

Meanwhile, Ommen V Ommen, state Biodiversity Chairman who has been made the chairman of the expert committee on the Kasturirangan report, said his main responsibility would be to hold grassroot level discussions on the report and create awareness among people that it would not harm their life.

“I will be clear about my responsibilities only when I receive the terms and references. When we receive a copy of Kasturirangan report, we will bring out a Malayalam version of it, giving focus on Kerala side. Later we will visit all 123 villages, said to be affected with its implementation, and try to create consensus among various sections of people with the support of panchayat authorities and political parties,” he said.

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