The Kerala Assembly has adopted a substantive motion voicing concern over several recommendations of the Madhav Gadgil panel on Western Ghats conservation and wants the Centre to hold wider consultations with the States concerned before implementation.

The motion, approved unanimously by the House after a three-hour debate last night, wants the Centre to drop those “impractical” suggestions made by the panel arguing they would constrict the development process.

Both the ruling Congress-led UDF and the CPI(M)-led LDF Opposition have already voiced their apprehension that giving effect to the report in toto would lead to the large-scale displacement of farmers from upland areas and come in the way of development activities, including hydel-based power generation.

Apart from the political spectrum, Kerala’s Catholic establishment has also raised serious objections to the Gadgil report contending that it could unsettle people in high range areas such as Idukki and Wayanad, where the church has a big following.

The motion, moved by Chief Minister Oommen Chandy, called for a practical approach giving due consideration to the development of the areas concerned while implementing conservation initiatives to protect the Western Ghats.

Chandy, however, said the State agreed with several of the vital proposals such as ban on genetically modified crops, plastic and planting of exotic trees in the Ghats areas.

But the big flaw of the report was that it demarcated a grid of 81 sq km as ecologically sensitive area, he said. He noted that almost all the six States, across which the Western Ghats stretches, had raised objections to portions of the report. It was in view of these objections that the Centre had set up an experts’ panel and Kerala had sought a hearing to put forward its views.

Despite broad political consensus on the issue, some of the UDF MLAs, known as “green legislators”, supported the overall perspective of the Gadgil report and called for stringent measures to protect the biodiversity hotspot from being further ravaged by the land mafia.

(This article was published on December 21, 2012)
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