Just few weeks back, Karnataka and Kerala witnessed devastating calamities which ruined Kerala and parts of South Karnataka causing immense damage to the place. Lakhs of people were displaced, thousands of acres lands was destroyed and people lost their livelihood.
It was very well known that the main reason for such devastating effect was indiscriminate destruction of Nature in the Western Ghats. The Gadgil report which was submitted many years back had also predicted that places adjacent to Western Ghats will face massive destruction if exploitation of Nature was not stopped.
Just after Coorg witnessed massive floods, Justice Michael F Saldanha (retd), who is now an environmentalist had written a letter to the Chief Minister of Karnataka blaming the timber mafia and politicians for such natural disasters. In his letter he had warned the CM of catastrophic effects if action was not taken against those responsible for destruction of Kodagu (Coorg) Cauvery belt which is the main reason for floods.
In the letter, he said he was totally horrified to see the amount of devastation in the Cauvery basin. With huge areas today completely denuded due to the felling of crores of trees, Justice Saldanha put the blame on the forest department. According to his enquiries, he wrote that this has happened in collusion with the forest department and the Kerala timber mafia. ‘Kerala timber mafia induce the estate owners and the government officials, discriminately fell the tress and transport the timber to Kerala,’ The experts have pointed out that unless all this green cover is immediately replaced, it will totally destroy the Cauvery basin,” he wrote. India Today Report 1
It was in the year 2013, a survey of the Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel (WGEEP), headed by environmentalist Madhav Gadgil had submitted a report about the vast scale destruction of forest area in Kerala by politicians and had suggested to declare 37 per cent of the Ghats as ‘Ecologically Fragile’. They had also suggested to classify most the areas as ecologically-sensitive zones (ESZs) by the Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel (WGEEP), which was also known as the Gadgil Committee. Pointing out that the environment and ecology of the Western Ghats were under serious threat from human interference, the WGEEP had called for a spate of strict measures intended to protect the ranges, classified as a world heritage site by the United Nations. India Today Report 2
The committee had suggested that 140,000 kilometres of the Western Ghats be classified in three zones as per the requirement of environmental protection in the areas. In some areas, the committee recommended strong restrictions on mining and quarrying, use of land for non forest purposes, construction of high rises etc. India Today report 2
But the then UPA government in centre and Oman Chandy in Kerala along with Christian Missionaries under Syro-Malabar Catholic Church had objected the implementation of Gadgil committee report and threatened physical assault against those who insisted. As most of the timber mafia thiefs are politicians, the Congress never wanted to put a break to their looting business. So, the timber mafia continued to loot the western Ghats.
After Modi government came, the centre has been insisting on implementing the Gadgil report of declaring the Western ghats as Eco Sensitive zone. But the present Congress and JDS governmnet in Karnataka has rejected the report,
The centre therefore said environment ministry will be soon be issuing a draft notification declaring the Western Ghats as eco-sensitive area (ESA). A total of 56,825 sq km of the ghats is being planned to be brought under Eco-Sensitive area. The states that will come under this area includes Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Gujarat, Goa and Maharashtra.
AK Mehta, additional secretary, environment ministry said, “We are in the process of republishing the draft notification. We will have a discussion with Karnataka on the matter because they are not willing to accept the notification.”
But the Karnataka forest minister, Shankar R, said the state will not accept any curbs under the ESA notification. “The Western Ghats ESA notification will have major impact on the state’s economy. There are already various legislations including the Forest Conservation Act 1980, which ensure protection of forests. Why do we need one more legislation? All red category industries will be restricted in the Ghats, which will affect livelihoods.”
This is nothing but a gimmick played by the politicians in the name of tribal welfare and economy. Until now, the Congress government has done no development for ant tribals in the western ghats area, but instead has used their names to exploit the rich natural resources for minting money. It is said that K J George and some of the other politicians have huge timber business in the western ghats and are solely responsible for the destruction of places like Kudhermukh and Chikamagaluru in Karnataka.
A senior environment ministry official, who didn’t wish to be named, said this time the other five states seem to be on board requesting minor amendments. “Karnataka, however, is not agreeing with even the concept of ESA,” The official said.The National Green Tribunal (NGT) had on September 1 barred any reduction in the ESA area in view of the Kerala floods. It instructed the Kerala government not to compromise over the area that needs to be declared Eco Sensitive.
The new panel which submitted report was headed by Kasturirangan which strongly suggests the centre to declare Western ghats as Eco Sensitive area if the ecological balance has to be maintained.
It is important that the centre takes a strong stand on these issues. If left to the politicians who themselves are part of Timber mafia, they will for sure see to that the entire South of India will be ruined for ever. The ultimate sufferers if there is any natural calamity will be common man and not politicians. It is important that these criminal politicians are a lesson by declaring Western Ghats Ecological sensitive which will out a full stop to their illegal business.