The central government’s suppression of the Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel (WGEEP) report was surprising, especially after its suggestions were incorporated in the report, said Madhav Gadgil, who was the chairperson of the WGEEP, on Saturday.
Gadgil was speaking at the Gurus of Science Lecture Series organised by Observer Research Foundation.
Calling the new paradigm of development as one based on imposition rather than consensus, Gadgil said: “Before finishing the [WGEEP] report, I had discussed it at length with the then environment minister. It was absolutely surprising that the report was not made public until the intervention of the chief information commission and the Delhi high court,” said Gadgil, a professor at the Centre for Ecological Sciences, Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore.
The ministry of environment and forests (MoEF) constituted the WGEEP in 2010 to study the impact of developmental projects in the Western Ghats region, specifically those in Ratnagiri and Sindhudurg districts. The report of the panel was submitted to the MoEF on August 31 last year.
When asked if the government of any of the six states that host the western ghats contacted him for consultations, Gadgil said, “Apart from Prithviraj Chavan (Maharashtra), none of the chief ministers contacted the panel or me. In fact, even Chavan had called for a meeting to discuss problems arising due to the report’s recommendations.”
The MoEF, according to Gadgil, did not readily provide old reports and studies such as the Zonal Atlas For Siting of Industries (ZASI) that indicated the pollution receiving capacity of various zones and sites.
He said the government’s decision to form the High Level Working Group to study the recommendations of the WGEEP report did not make any sense.
“The government did not make the report public or translate it into local languages to make sure it reaches the stakeholders. The respected working committee would find it difficult to understand the response of stakeholders,” he said.