Floods due to gross ignorance of nature, says environmentalist

Manasi Saraf Joshi
Tuesday, 21 August 2018

Pune: “Rising number of stone mines and inordinate mining has led to the Kerala disaster,” said renowned environmentalist Madhav Gadgil. While talking to Sakal Times on the Kerala floods here on Monday, he said, “It is wrong to entirely blame the rainfall for the flooding in the state. The reasons are many but human intervention is the main reason behind it.”

Pune: “Rising number of stone mines and inordinate mining has led to the Kerala disaster,” said renowned environmentalist Madhav Gadgil. While talking to Sakal Times on the Kerala floods here on Monday, he said, “It is wrong to entirely blame the rainfall for the flooding in the state. The reasons are many but human intervention is the main reason behind it.”

He said, “Few of my friends from India Meteorological Department (IMD) are verifying the fact that this type of rainfall was measured way back in 1921, 1929, but such tragedies did not occur then, as human beings had not interfered in nature so much.”

When asked as to why in recent years the flooding due to rain has increased in various parts of the country, Gadgil said the incessant use of flood line for construction activity, throwing the construction debris in the rivers leading to narrowing of the river bed are few of the reasons. 

“Here in Kerala, there are too many dams built without following any scientific path. My first question is whether Kerala needed so many dams? Secondly, there was no management of dam water. Thirdly, in this case, all the doors of all the dams were opened at one time. Was that a sane move?” he asked.  

Gadgil said that though the danger of such flooding looms large over Maharashtra or Goa or any other state for that matter, the amount of rainfall Kerala receives is higher than other states. He said, “Kerala has high mountains and the ecology there is different from here. But if we continue with mining activities and ignore the signs, we are likely to face such situations in the near future.”

The Gadgil Panel had suggested measures for the preservation of the natural environment of the ecologically fragile Western Ghats region in its report presented to the government in 2011. The report had recommended that the entire Western Ghats, spread over six states including Maharashtra, Goa, Karnataka, Kerala and others should be declared as an ecologically sensitive zone. The panel also suggested three levels of ecological sensitivity for various regions in the ghats.

Interestingly, the committee had strongly recommended a ban on new industrial and mining activities in the area. “We had recommended that if the government has to carry out any developmental work, then it should do so in consultation with the local communities and gram panchayats,” he said adding, “but that was ignored completely.”

He also blamed roads, which are made through the hills, as they are not as per the rules and regulations. “The way hillocks are crushed and roads are built, we are going to face frequent events of landslides,” he said. The Gadgil Report has yet not been accepted by any of the governments. The Environment Ministry later appointed another panel, which was headed by space scientist K Kasturirangan to ‘examine’ the Gadgil Committee report in a ‘holistic and multidisciplinary’ fashion, while considering the objections raised by the state governments and responses received from others.

The Kasturirangan Committee submitted its report in 2013 and said that only 37 per cent of the Western Ghat regions require conservation as against Gadgil Report, which said 64 per cent of it need conservation. “I was aghast and surprised by the Kasturirangan report. It was basically unconstitutional as it did not consider local authorities and gram panchayats. And how could a person like Kasturirangan make such recommendations,” said Gadgil.

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