The environment is one of the critical areas for the UPSC CSE Exam. Hence, it is essential to pay attention and analyze the recent Gadgil-Kasturirangan Reports on the Western Ghats in detail.
In this article, we cover the reports in view of all Prelims, Mains and Interview. Keep reading this article till the end and get your basics straight on the topic. In this article, we have done some hardcore research on both the controversial reports involving Madhav Gadgil Committee and Kasturirangan Committee, aiming to reduce the load upon the aspirants.
Making a conscious effort at preserving the environment is essential for the existence of the flow of life on earth. In this article, we are going to talk about the importance of Western Ghats as well as the Madhav Gadgil, and Kasturirangan reports.
Why are Western Ghats Important?
Western ghats span over six states, 44 districts and 142 taluks, making it one of the most extensive regions. Harbouring quite a lot of endangered species of plants and animals, Western ghats host 13 National parks and sanctuaries. The Western Ghats accommodates the richest wilderness in India. It is one of the 8 most important biodiversity hotspots recognized by UNESCO.
The Western Ghats are forested hills that source a number of rivers like the Godavari, Krishna and Cauvery. The Western Ghats also acts as a huge water tanker, supplying water to six different states in the country.
Now, there is a huge water shortage as all the rivers are drying. And whatever water remains is highly polluted. So, for the sustainability of India, especially South India, Western Ghats needs our utmost attention right now. Hence, the Ministry of Environment and Forests of India set up an expert panel called Gadgil Committee in March 2010. The aim of this committee is to device strategies for the conservation of Western Ghats.
Madhav Gadgil Committee
This is an environmental research commission, and it is named after Madhav Gadgil, its chairman. The formal name of this commission is Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel (WGEEP). A report had been submitted by this committee to the government of India on 31 August 2011, with suggestions on how to improve the condition of Western Ghats.
Gadgil committee divided the total area into 3 ESA zones. 60% of the area comes under the highest-priority Ecologically Sensitive Area (ESA-1). No kind of development activity is allowed to take place in this zone, according to the report. 25% of the area comes under the lowest-priority Ecologically Sensitive Area (ESA-3), and development activities are allowed to be carried out in this area. 15% of the remaining area comes under ESA-2.
Let us take mining as an example—no permission for mining to be carried out in ESA-1. Existing mining- activities can be carried out in ESA-2. New mining activities can be taken up in ESA-3.
Recommendations of the Gadgil Committee
There were eminent ecologists in the Gadgil committee, and it was evident in the recommendations they provided in the report. The report received a lot of backlashes, saying it was in favour of the environment and environmentalists and not development or any illegal activity. There is still a lot of debate going on over the environment and development. Balancing one without compromising the other is a tough job. Let’s discuss the highlight of the Gadgil report.
- The Entire hill range was designated as an Ecologically Sensitive Area (ESA) by the Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel (WGEEP).
- It was classified by the panel in the report that all the 142 taluks in the Western Ghats have their boundaries into the Ecologically Sensitive Zones 1,2, and 3.
- Ecologically Sensitive Zone 1 is of the highest priority, where most of the development activities like mining, thermal power plants, etc., are banned from taking place.
- It is recommended by the Gadgil report that no new large-scale storage-based dams can be permitted in the Ecologically Sensitive Zone 1. So, environmental clearance can’t be given to Athirappilly Hydroelectric Project of Kerala and Gundia Hydroelectric Project of Karnataka as they come under Ecologically Sensitive Zone 1.
- It is specified in the Gadgil report that the present system we have for environmental governance needed to be changed. We have a top to bottom approach. It suggested that we follow a bottom to top approach instead. We can do this by giving more powers to the local authorities by decentralization.
- Under Section 3 of the Environment Protection Act, 1986, the commission recommended to the constitution to set up a statutory authority called Western Ghats Ecology Authority (WGEA) under the Ministry of Environment and Forests.
Criticism faced by the Gadgil Report
- The Madhav Gadgil Committee faced major criticism for being more concerned with the environment than development. Their recommendations were considered too impractical to be implemented.
- A complete eco-sensitive cover of the Western Ghats was asked by the Gadgil committee. This would affect the energy and developments fronts of many states.
- It was also criticized for suggesting the constitution set up a new authority called WGEA, insisting that the environment could be protected under the existing laws as well.
- A lot of revenue losses would be incurred by implementing their recommendation. The committee hasn’t provided any solution for that.
- The report recommended against the construction of dams in the Western Ghats. It would be a huge blow on the power sector due to the increasing energy requirements of our country.
- The most criticism and protests against the reports were mainly from sand mining and quarrying industries. Fear was created among the farmers of Kerala that the report was against them that the implementation of these recommendations would lose their livelihoods.
This committee is a 10-member working group that was set up to examine the WGEEP report (Gadgil report). This committee is referred to as a High-level working group (HLWG) and was headed by Kasturirangan.
Recommendations by Kasturirangan Report
- The report states that only 37% of the total area of the Western Ghats (60,000 sq. km) be considered under Ecologically Sensitive Areas (ESA).
- The report states that mining, quarrying and sand mining in Ecologically Sensitive Areas should be completely banned.
- The report states that, as stated in the Gadgil committee, out of the cultural land that covers about 58% of the area in the Western Ghats is occupied by human settlements, agricultural fields and plantations, and natural landscaping 90% comes under Ecologically Sensitive Area.
- The report also states that all the mining activities that are currently functioning in the ESA should be stopped within the next five years or when the lease expires, whichever comes first.
- Without a detailed study, no thermal power projects or hydroelectric power projects would be cleared to proceed.
- Highly polluting industries/ Red industries are banned in Ecologically Sensitive Areas.
- The report has made several recommendations in favour of the farmers, like excluding inhabited areas and plantations that come under ESAs.
- According to the report, 123 villages fall under Ecologically Sensitive Areas.
Criticism by Kasturirangan Committee Report
- Aerial survey and remote sensing were used by the panel for marking lands in the Western Ghats by zones. Many errors have been caused in the report by using these techniques without examination of the ground reality.
- The bureaucrats and forest officials held power instead of gram sabhas.
- It is feared that if the Kasturirangan report is implemented, it will get the farmers evicted.
- This report promotes the flourishment of mining and quarrying, which would be devastating to the environment. It would cause a shortage of water, pollution.
- The report used erroneous methods, which included many villages under ESA as a result. But they were merely rubber plantations and wasn’t forest land.
- The report was also incorrect in including areas under ESA that weren’t actually Ecologically Sensitive and excluding the areas that are actually Ecologically Sensitive.
Comparison of Madhav Gadgil Report and Kasturirangan Report
Achieving a perfect balance between environment and development is a tough job. According to the Gadgil report, Western Ghats’ landscapes spreads across 1,29,037 sq km. While Kasturirangan report says, it is 1,64, 280 sq km. While the Gadgil report was inclined towards the environment, the Kasturirangan report was inclined towards development. Many loopholes were provided for mining by the Kasturirangan report, after which it got tagged as anti-environmental. It is ironic that it was tagged anti-development as well as many feared losing their livelihood.
That is all the information you need to be aware of regarding the Gadgil-Kasturirangan reports.
For more information on other topics for the IAS exam or tips to follow, subscribe to our blog posts.