Illegal forest land acquisition major reason for floods in Kerala, says ecologist Madhav Gadgil, calls it man-made disaster

Kerala has been witnessing the worst floods in a century in which thousands have been rendered homeless and more than 300 people have lost their lives, amidst widespread destruction to crops and property.
Madhav Gadgil.(HT FILE PHOTO)
Madhav Gadgil.(HT FILE PHOTO)
Updated on Aug 19, 2018 04:39 PM IST
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Hindustan Times, Pune | ByParth Welankar, Pune

Well-known ecologist Madhav Gadgil, founder of the Centre for Ecological Sciences at the Indian Institute of Science, Bengaluru, has described the devastating floods in Kerala as a man-made disaster and a reaction to the illegal excavations and stone quarrying done over a decade.

Kerala has been witnessing the worst floods in a century in which thousands have been rendered homeless and more than 300 people have lost their lives, amidst widespread destruction to crops and property.

In an interview to Hindustan Times, Gadgil said, “Irresponsible environmental policy is to be blamed for the recent floods and landslides in Kerala. Extensive stone quarrying and mushrooming of high-rises as part of tourism, and illegal forest land acquisition by private parties are the major reasons for the recent floods in the state.”

Most of the areas affected by this monsoon were once classified as ecologically-sensitive zones (ESZs) by the Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel (WGEEP), also known as the Gadgil Committee.

The committee had suggested that 1,40,000 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 and construction of high-rises.

However, consecutive state governments in Kerala failed to take cognizance of the report by the Gadgil committee. Accusing the Kerala government of inaction on his report, Gadgil said, “We had first submitted the report in 2011. However, since then, we were in a sense boycotted by government officials as we had recommended them to stop all the illegal activities being encouraged by them.”

Gadgil said that the report had very specifically pointed that if the stone quarrying was not stopped, it might eventually lead to natural calamities “like the one happening in the state today”.

However, the establishments turned a deaf ear to all the recommendations, he added. According to Gadgil, a total of 1,650 excavators were deployed for stone quarrying and mining, of which only 150 were given permissions.

Expressing grief over the situation in Kerala, Gadgil said, “The government should at least now stop all the illegal stone quarrying activities after having faced the consequences. Although it is late, the government must act on the recommendations given by our committee to avoid any such terrific incidents in the future.”

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