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Western Ghats region prone to disaster if conservation is delayed: Madhav Gadgil

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Western Ghats region prone to disaster if conservation is delayed: Madhav Gadgil
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Thiruvananthapuram: 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 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.

The 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.

In Kerala, political parties and church establishments, irrespective of their differences, are against implementation of the report. They fear that the implementation would result in large-scale displacement of small and marginal farmers settled on the slopes of the hill ranges.

Even the Kasturirangan report, which studied the recommendations of Madhav Gadgil report, has also not received total support. The state government formed an experts' panel last week under the Biodiversity Board Chairman Ommen V Ommen to create consensus among political parties and environmental activists on its implementation.

Disputing the contention of the sceptics, Vijayan said the Gadgil committee has not opposed all human activity in the demarcated regions.

PTI

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