Special: Kasturirangan report: Up close
Man over beast
Thiruvananthapuram: Hidden deep inside the two-volume report of the High-Level Working Group (HLWG) headed by K Kasturirangan is a confession. “HLWG recognizes that the proposed non-permissible activities (in ecologically sensitive areas) may not be enough to fully manage the environmental fallout of development.”
This is not to say that the HLWG was apologetic about its recommendations. The tone of the report, unlike that of the Gadgil report, clearly suggests that given a choice Kasturirangan and his team will stand by a human making a meagre living out of the forest than, say, the Giant Malabar Squirrel.
A police jeep gutted by a violent mob at rattathodu Kottiyoor on Friday. -DC
“Management of the Western Ghats through prohibition and fiat is often detrimental to interests of the very people and environment the policy is aiming to protect,” it says.
Incentivisation, and not displacement, is the HLWG motto.
The Gadgil committee, on the other hand, had taken an activist position. Just because a windmill project in the Bhimashankar Wildlife Sanctuary threatened Maharashtra’s state animal, the Giant Malabar Squirrel, the Gadgil committee had applied a blanket ban on windmills across the Western Ghats. Gadgil threatened the future of the legendary Kodagu coffee when it recommended that existing plantations in ESZ be replaced with endemic plant species.
The Kasturirangan panel admonished the Madhav Gadgil Committee for being blind to the human cultural component in Western Ghats. It divided the Western Ghats area into cultural and natural landscapes and placed the cultural landscape, which forms the largest chunk of the Ghats, out of the ambit of the ecological sensitive area (ESA) even while fully aware that these landscapes are biologically rich.
The cultural landscape, as different from natural landscape, is human-dominated land of settlements, agriculture and plantations (other than forest plantations). It is the natural landscape that has been branded ESA.
What’s more, the HLWG acknowledges and allows for the presence of humans even in areas marked as natural landscape. It says that unlike in other countries like Africa, the natural landscapes in Western Ghats cannot be called “wilderness areas”. “It is not wilderness area, but the habitat of its people,” is how the HLWG report puts it.
Then it adds: “It is not possible to plan for Western Ghats, only as a fenced-in zone, with no human influence.”
The HLWG deems the human influence has enriched more than it had degraded the biological richness of the Western Ghats.
“People living within the rich biodiversity have nurtured nature. They must benefit from conservation,” the report states.
It says facilities should be created for the value addition of non-timber forest products. It also calls for both infrastructure and financial support for the collection and transport of such produce.The Kasturirangan panel indirectly mocks at the rigid approach of Gadgil by stressing the importance of generating sustainable livelihoods inside biodiversity-rich areas.
The HLWG, unlike the organic cultivation diktat issued by Gadgil, has recommended an incentive-based shift to organic cultivation.
Controversially, it even promotes tourism. “It is clear that tourism, particularly, after the declaration of portions of the Western Ghats as a world heritage site, can be an important source of livelihood and economic growth in the region,” the report states.
Next: Rangan sets Ghats ablaze
Rangan sets Ghats ablaze
Kozhikode/ Kannur/ Thiruvananthapuram: Violence erupted in the high ranges of Kozhikode during the hartal called by the LDF on Friday against the Centre's decision to implement the Kasturirangan report. Police had to fire in the air in Adivaram to rescue Kozhikode rural SP P H Ashraf and DySP Jaison K Abraham who were held captive by a violent mob.
More than 20 policemen and several local residents were injured in the violence. The protesters would not allow the injured policemen to be taken to hospital for nearly two hours. More than 5,000 persons encircled the cops.
The police resorted to two lathi-charges but that didn’t work. As more people started arriving, the police sensed the situation could go out of hand and fired eight rounds in the air to disperse the violent mob.
The injured policemen were rushed to nearby hospitals. Local residents alleged that the violence was triggered by anti social elements as their hartal and agitation was incident free till noon.
At around 1 pm groups of people packed in eight tipper trucks arrived in Thamarassery town and went on a rampage. They smashed buses, government vehicles, police vans, set a forest office on fire destroying official documents and even targeted the media.
The violence-hit areas of Adivaram and Thamarassery remained cut off from the rest of the district as traffic on the busy Kozhikode-Bengaluru NH 212 remained completely blocked in the afternoon.In Idukki, the Highrange Samrakshana Samithi and organisations backing it, decided to intensify their agitation in the district.
The protestors have decided to lay indefinite siege to the Moolamattom power house in Idukki from Monday. “We will be picketing only Moolamattom power house,’’ said Fr Sebastian Kochupurackal, general convenor of the Samithi.
The Samithi will picket government offices from Wednesday and boycott political leaders who failed to resign their posts and express solidarity with the people of the district.
Next: Report not final word, says Jayanti
Report not final word, says Jayanti
Thiruvananthapuram: Even as Chief Minister Oommen Chandy fumed over what he termed as the Centre’s unilateral imposition of the Kasturirangan report, the Union Minister for Environment and Forest, Jayanti Natarajan, said the report in its current form was not the final word.
“Final guidelines will be issued after receiving reports of the six Western Ghats states on the Kasturirangan report,” she said.
KPCC chief Ramesh Chennithala, even while reiterating that farmers’ interests will be protected, said that the MoEF move was an interim measure to check rampant mining in certain pockets outside the State.
Next: Even digging a well is barred, rue people
Even digging a well is barred, rue people
Kottayam: "We are ready for a compromise with the Government if human settlements, farmsteads and the plantation areas are exempted from the purview of the Ecological Sensitive Areas(ESA) so that our lives and activities are not affected”, said Fr Sebastian Kochupurackal of the High Range Samrakshana Samiti.
Fr Kochupurackal was speaking to Deccan Chronicle after the Samiti announced a slew of agitation programmes, including occupy-the-street strike and nonpayment of taxes.
"MoEF’s latest notification came just as discussions were about to take place in the state on the report’s viability. The decision to notify recommendations at this juncture was an affront to the people ", said Fr Kochupurackal.
CPM district secretary MM Mony said that "except some areas in Thodupuzha taluk, almost all areas in the district are under the purview of the recommendations. The restrictions on mining and quarrying should be excluded from the purview of the recommendations. Mining may include the tilling for the purpose of making a well. All this will make lives miserable".
The locals too are worried over the decision of the MoEF, as they say this will lead to the rule of the bureaucracy.
"Banning quarries will affect house construction and restrictions on digging wells will affect farming. The report if implemented will result in the rule of bureaucrats and their exploitation of the people", said Johnnson Vengathadam of Thodupuzha.
Next: ‘Prefer to die than lord over evictees’
‘Prefer to die than lord over evictees’
Jose Kurian |DC
Kozhikode: The Catholic Church’s campaign in the hilly regions of Malabar against the implementation of Gadgil and Kasturirangan reports spilled on to the streets late Thursday night and Friday morning, deflecting the focus from the anti-farmer content to the violence.
Many feel that the Church campaign, joined by LDF, slipped into violence as criminal elements linked to quarry mafia sneaked in. The campaign has unsettled settlers, scaring them out of their wits as if they would be bulldozed and thrown out on the streets from their habitats.
Thamarassery Bishop Remigius Inchananiyil, who fired the first salvo against the Western Ghats conservation reports, recently declared: “It is better to die rather live as the bishop of evictees”.
Thamarassery Bishop Remigius Inchananiyil
True to his stand, he justified the violence.Bishop Inchnaniyil told DC on Friday that Church had perceived the situation correctly and warned the Government. “It is a spontaneous reaction of farmers, akin to gasps of fish pulled out of water. The farmers are out on the streets to wake the Government from its stupor”, he said.
Meanwhile environment experts and activists feel that the Church had jumped the gun, not applying its mind and educating the masses.
Jose Sebastian on the expert committee formed by the Mananthavadi Catholic diocese to study the Gadgil committee report, said that instead of a blanket protest, the Church should have focused on needs of farmers.
“Antisocial elements have been on a vicious campaign against the conservational aspects of the report. The Church has failed to distinguish the anti-farmer content in the report”, he said.
Writer Civic Chandran said the Church should have been wiser in organizing protests lest its farm community end up as an anti-social lot. “The rampage on the streets reminds me of the series of agitation organized against Christhuvinte Aram Thirumurivu, a drama on the life of Jesus Christ”, he said, adding that most of the priests and believers had neither watched nor read the drama before protesting.
Next: ‘Banishing Gadgil norms is disservice to green cause’
‘Banishing Gadgil norms is disservice to green cause’
K P Sethunath | DC
Kozhikode: The Ministry of Environment and Forests has banished the Madhav Gadgil and the Kasturirangan Committee reports from its website even as protests gathered fresh momentum in the hilly tracts of Kerala following the notification of the Kasturirangan report by the ministry on Thursday. The reports otherwise available in the site had disappeared after the ministry had notified part of the recommendations of made by the committee.
The notification of the ministry had also evoked objections from green activists as it had completely blanked out the existence of the Madhav Gadgil Committee report for the preservation of the Western Ghats. The notification has failed in even mentioning the Gadgil committee, which was, appointed by the ministry, pointed out Dr TV Sajeev, a scientist of the Peechi-based Kerala Forest Research Institute said.
The ministry had lost a good opportunity to bring a people-centric preservation of the ecology by opting for a silent burial to the Gadgil Committee report, he said.
“The emphasis on the empowerment of grama sabhas for deciding development projects in ecologically sensitive areas is one of the most important suggestions of the Gadgil report. But, the Kasturirangan Committee provides no scope for the participation of people in the decision making”, Dr Sajeev said.
The violent protest against the report seen in many parts of the state is a natural reaction to the exclusion of the people from the purview of the ecological conservation, he pointed out.
Kasturirangan Committee was formed mainly to suggest ways for implementation of the report prepared by the Western Ghats Expert Panel headed by Gadgil said VV Srinivasan general secretary of the Kerala Shastra Sahitya Parishad.
“We are of the opinion that the Kasturirangan report should be scrapped and the government should initiate measures to implement the Gadgil report based on a more scientific approach after having discussions with the people”, he said.
The unilateral implementation of the Kasturirangan report is not acceptable, he added.