As Kerala struggles to recover from its worst floods in a century, ecologist Madhav Gadgil’s report that had warned against damage to the environment is back in focus.
A committee headed by Gadgil submitted a 500-page report in 2011 recommending a slew of measures to protect the fragile ecosystem of the Western Ghats—a mountain range that runs parallel to the coast across six Indian states, including Kerala. Zones marked out as ecologically sensitive in Gadgil’s report were among the regions worst hit by the floods that took over 400 lives in the southern state. Gadgil has no doubt that if his report had been implemented, there would have been “substantially less” loss of human life and damage to property.
Unscientific management of water in reservoirs by the Kerala government is one of the key reasons for the scale of devastation by the heaviest rainfall in a century, Gadgil said in an interview with BloombergQuint.
This year, the reservoirs were almost full halfway through the monsoon. When the last rainfall came, they suddenly released the water.Madhav Gadgil, Ecologist
Illegal stone quarrying is another reason that led to greater devastation in Kerala. Gadgil said rampant quarrying led to more landslides and rubble deposits, blocking streams and rivers.
You have this huge criminal economic enterprise. It’s flourishing in Kerala and that has led to landslides especially in Idukki.Madhav Gadgil, Author of 2011 Gadgil Committee report on Western Ghats
The Gadgil report was rejected in the past over concerns that its implementation would hurt local economies. It recommended that 90 percent of the Western Ghats should be a “no-go area”.
Gadgil said the only threat of implementing measures to protect the environment will be to “extensive profits, often through criminal means”. Citing examples of illegal mining in Goa and polluting industries in coastal Maharashtra, the ecologist warned that ignoring or subverting existing laws and recommendations will only put the environment at a greater risk and pave the way for more disasters like what was seen in Kerala.
I do not agree that economy and ecology are at loggerheads. What is at loggerheads is this greed for extensive profits and often through criminal means.Madhav Gadgil, Ecologist