Subject: An open letter of Dr K Katurirangan
From: “Madhav Gadgil”
Date: Fri, May 17, 2013 9:39 pm
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Dear Dr. Kasturirangan,
JBS Haldane, the celebrated 19h century scientist and humanist who quit
England protesting its imperialistic invasion of Suez to become an Indian
citizen has said: Reality is not only stranger than we suppose, but
stranger than we CAN suppose! I could never have imagined that you would be
party to a report such as that of the High Level Working Group on Western
Ghats, but, then, reality is indeed stranger than we can suppose!
In our report to the Ministry of Environment & Forests, based on our
extensive discussions and field visits, we had advocated a graded approach
with a major role for grass-roots level inputs for safeguarding the
ecologically sensitive Western Ghats. You have rejected this framework and
in its place, you advocate a partitioning amongst roughly one-third of what
you term natural landscapes, to be safeguarded by guns and guards, and
two-third of so-called cultural landscapes, to be thrown open to
development, such as what has spawned the 35,000 crore rupees illegal
mining scam of Goa. This amounts to attempts to maintain oases of diversity
in a desert of ecological devastation. Ecology teaches us that such
fragmentation would lead, sooner, rather than later, to the desert
overwhelming the oases. It is vital to think of maintenance of habitat
continuity, and of an ecologically and socially friendly matrix to ensure
long term conservation of biodiversity rich areas, and this is what we had
Moreover, freshwater biodiversity is far more threatened than forest
biodiversity and lies largely in what you term cultural landscapes.
Freshwater biodiversity is also vital to livelihoods and nutrition of large sections
of our people. That is why we had provided a detailed case study of Lote
Chemical Industry complex in Ratnagiri district of Maharashtra, where
pollution exceeding all legal limits has devastated fisheries so that
20,000 people have been rendered jobless, while only 11,000 have obtained
industrial employment. Yet the Government wants to set up further polluting
industries in the same area, and has therefore deliberately suppressed its
own Zonal Atlas for Siting of Industries.
Your report shockingly dismisses our constitutionally guaranteed democratic
devolution of decision making powers, remarking that local communities can
have no role in economic decisions. Not surprisingly, your report
completely glosses over the fact reported by us that while the Government
takes absolutely no action against illegal pollution of Lote, it had
invoked police powers to suppress perfectly legitimate and peaceful
protests against pollution on as many as 180 out of 600 days in 2007-09.
India’s cultural landscape harbours many valuable elements of biodiversity.
Fully 75% of the population of Lion-tailed Macaque, a monkey species
confined to the Western Ghats, thrives in the cultural landscape of tea
gardens. I live in the city of Pune and scattered in my locality are a
large number of Banyan, Peepal and Gular trees; trees that belong to genus *
Ficus*, celebrated in modern ecology as a keystone resource that sustains a
wide variety of other species. Through the night I hear peacocks calling,
and when I get up and go to the terrace I see them dancing. It is our
people, rooted in India’s strong cultural traditions of respect for nature,
who have venerated and protected the sacred groves, the *Ficus *trees, the
monkeys and the peafowl.
Apparently all this is to be snuffed out. It reminds me of Francis
Buchanan, an avowed agent of British imperialism, who wrote in 1801 that
India’s sacred groves were merely a contrivance to prevent the East India
Company from claiming its rightful property.
It would appear that we are now more British than the British and are
asserting that a nature friendly approach in the cultural landscape is merely
a contrivance to prevent the rich and powerful of the country and of the
globalized world from taking over all lands and waters to exploit and
pollute as they wish while pursuing lawless, jobless economic growth. It is
astonishing that your report strongly endorses such an approach. Reality is
indeed stranger than we can suppose!
With warm personal regards,
Res: A-18, Springflowers, Panchavati, Pashan, Pune 411008, Tel 020-25893424
Office: Biodiversity Department, Garware College, Karve Road, Pune 411004, Tel 020-41038236 , Fax 020-41038233
जैवविविधता विभाग, गरवारे महाविद्यालय, कर्वे रस्ता, पुणे ४११००४
ए-१८, स्प्रिंगफ़्लॉवर्स, पंचवटी, पाषाण, पुणे ४११००८,
निसर्गाने दिला आनंदकंद । केवळ सौंदर्य, केवळ आनंद।