From: "Madhav Gadgil" <madhav.gadgil@ gmail.com>
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
This is a continuation of the omnicide vigourously practiced by the Central Government. When we read the Gadgil Report on the Western Ghats, Annu Jalais's book Forest of Tigers on The Sundarbans or the way the valiant villagers are being looted of lands where Nuclear station Prgorams are being planned and executed or mining of lands are being permitted, the monstrosities are being given precedence over the people and ecology. People's lands -their homeland- must be given survival considerations so that original rights of all life are given equitable spaces over generations far into the future. The bottom line is life and their habitat. Only after these are taken care of on a permanent basis can useless jobless growth be taken up, if at all possible. This plunder and destruction by modern civilization must stop on pain of extinction and suicide. Of course given enough time modern civilization will destroy itself. But we must intervene to preserve life for all time.
The Western Ghats Ecology Experts Panel Report can be accessed at
My comments on the WGEEP Report which I forwarded to the Ministry of Environment and Forests:
I am aghast by the following examples cited in wgeep report of extreme disregard as regards acceptable governance by the authorities of our irreplaceable ecological wealth of India:
"Issues of Concern
Scientific basis of forestry and biodiversity management
The British introduced the current system of Forest Management in India some 150 years ago with claims that it was a scientific system that would result in sustainable harvests. Both these claims of scientific basis and of sustainability are of dubious validity. Science must stand on a solid bedrock of empirical facts. An important weakness of so-called scientific forestry is the lack or poor quality of its database, as the two examples cited above make abundantly clear.
In the 1960’s the Forestry establishment decided to abandon the "cautious" approach of conservation forestry and to become ‚aggressive"– clearfell and raise plantations, such as those of exotic tropical pine or Eucalyptus species (Gadgil, Prasad and Ali 1983; FAO, 1984; National Commission on Agriculture, 1976). Regrettably, there was no careful scientific research on which species would succeed and what productivities could be realized. Some of the very best of the Western Ghats natural forest was clearcut, on the supposition that the new plantations of Eucalyptus would annually produce a biomass of between 14 to 28 tonnes per hectare. A significant proportion of these plantations were a dismal failure, especially in the high rainfall tracts due to fungal diseases cutting down their productivity to just 1 to 3 tonnes per hectare (Prasad, 1984). Many steep slopes of the Western Ghats of Kerala and Karnataka were laid waste as the magnificent old stands of evergreens gave way to miserable stands of sickly Eucalyptus.
Similarly, an assessment of bamboo resources of Karnataka on the basis of the data available from the State Forest Resources Survey, paper mills, and extensive field work showed that the stocks were overestimated by a factor of ten (Gadgil and Prasad 1978, Prasad and Gadgil 1981). Scientific management also calls for knowledge of growth patterns to decide on a harvesting regime that will make the most of the growth potential. Yet, a majority of the preservation plots set up in the early 1900s to collect data on girth increments of different tree species under different environmental conditions in the country are either poorly maintained or destroyed (Gupta 1981). Similarly, Karnataka Forest Department’s prescriptions on the number of bamboo culms to be extracted from a clump were flawed because of a failure to appreciate the exponential nature of the growth of a bamboo clump and consequent excessive harvests from smaller-sized clumps (Kadambi 1949). Furthermore, the practices involved cleaning of the thorny covering developing naturally at the base of a bamboo clump. This was supposed to promote better growth of new shoots. In fact, removal of the thorny covering rendered the young shoots readily accessible to grazing by a whole range of animals so that the recruitment of new culms to the clumps remained very poor and the bamboo stocks remained stagnant. In contrast, the local villagers were fully aware of this difficulty attendant on clump cleaning and left the thorny cover intact while harvesting bamboo for their own use (Prasad and Gadgil 1981).(Italics mine).
Further wgeep:"Just to cite an example of an experience of mine [Madhav Gadgil:MG] from the pre-RTI era, at a meeting in the early 1980s in Kolkata, presided over by the Finance Minister of West Bengal to discuss environment and forest issues, the PCCF asserted that Working Plans are technical documents that must never be made available to the general public. In the early 1980s, MG was informed that a full set of Working Plans for India was not available at any institution in India, including FRI at Dehra Dun. Subsequently, MG could access and study them at the Commonwealth Forestry Institute at Oxford. When the proposal to clearfell large tracts of natural sal forests of Bastar and plant them up with tropical pine was opposed by many tribal groups, MG came to serve on a committee looking into the whole programme. The choice of tropical pine was being pushed on the basis of supposedly high production of a pilot plantation of the species. As a committee we discovered that this pilot plantation lay in ruins, and there were no proper records available of the performance of tropical pine at all. The whole affair was a gigantic fraud (Gadgil, M., Prasad, S.N. and Rauf Ali 1983)". So wgeep is relevant when it thunders:
"Are forests/wildlife being genuinely protected?
India today it is in the tribal and other forested lands that nature is most bountiful. Sadly, the human communities coexisting with this wealth of nature are afflicted by poverty and malnutrition. Clearly we must transform the system that has created this equation of riches of nature coupled with deprived human communities. Of course, we must conserve, and, indeed, rejuvenate nature; but surely not by treating our own people as enemies.
We have made available to the plywood industry for as little as sixty rupees, giant wild mango trees which yielded fruit famous for pickles worth hundreds of rupees every year. Such perverse incentives have destroyed people's motivation for guarding nature.
But let us ask, what may we expect, if in place of local communities, we give more powers to the state machinery? Will this lead to better protection of the forest cover, of wildlife, and halt encroachment of outsiders? Consider our experience of the last six decades of independence, leaving aside the awful destruction of the continent, which the British described as an ocean of trees on their first arrival, during the colonial period.
When nearly 11 % of the country's land surface under privately-owned forests was made over to forest authorities, delays and corruption resulted in destruction of the bulk of this tree cover.
Due to developmental projects whenever roads reached earlier inaccessible forest areas, there ensued large-scale felling of state forests.
Forest-based industries, to which were made available bamboo, or huge trees for pulpwood at throw away prices, promptly exhausted these resources.
Forest Development Corporations turned themselves into (in the words of Dr. Salim Ali and Mrs. Indira Gandhi), Forest Destruction Corporations and clear-felled huge tracts of rich natural forest without ensuring its replacement by productive forests.
Forest departments played a major role in destroying sacred groves under many guises.
With people viewing forest authorities as their enemies, the notorious criminal Veerappan remained at large for two decades, despite killing several government officials, and devastated the sandal wood trees and tuskers of Karnataka and Tamilnadu.
All tigers were poached out of the very well funded Sariska Tiger Reserve. Yet the government machinery did nothing beyond disseminating false information on the number of tigers.
The anti-people policies of forest authorities have landed rich wildlife habitats like the Keoladev Ghana National Park into serious trouble.
Consider, on the other hand, what our people have accomplished, despite the powers that be continually giving them false promises, trying their best to weaken people’s organizations, and trying to co-opt people into the corrupt system.
All over the country, keystone ecological resources like peepal, banyan, gular trees survive in good numbers.
Even today we are discovering new flowering plant species like Kuntsleria keralense in sacred groves protected by people in thickly populated coastal Kerala.
Monkeys and peafowl still survive in many parts of our country.
Numbers of chinkaras, blackbuck, and nilgai are actually on the increase.
People play a leading role in arresting poachers of animals like blackbuck.
In many parts of Rajasthan people are protecting community forest resources such as "Orans".
In Nagaland many community forests are under good management.
Many Van Panchayats of Uttaranchal are managing forest resources prudently.
Many village communities of the Central Indian belt are managing well forest resources over which they earlier enjoyed nistar rights.
Villages like Halakar in Karnataka are still preserving village forests well in spite of many attacks by state machinery.
Peasants of Ratnagiri district have ensured good regeneration of their private forests
Thousands of self-initiated forest protection committees of Orissa have regenerated forests brought under community protection.
One must also emphasize that the excellent present day forest cover of Switzerland has regenerated entirely on community forest lands.
After all it is the local people that benefit truly by sustaining the health of the local ecosystem. It is they that can guard and nurture these ecosystems most effectively. It is also they who possess locality specific knowledge of these ecosystems to manage them in a flexible fashion. Today we have a tremendous opportunity to work with the people and to protect and rejuvenate our natural resources, while at the same time enhancing the quality of people's lives. It is therefore imperative that we strive to implement not only the letter, but also the spirit of pro-people legislations such as Joint Forest Management (JFM), Extension of Panchayati Raj to Scheduled Areas (PESA), Protection of Plant Variety and Farmers’ Rights Act (PPVRFA), Biological Diversity Act (BDA), and the Scheduled Tribes and other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Rights over the Forest) Act (FRA)."
I(R. Ashok Kumar) have to offer my comments in complete frustration at the way the government has witheld the wgeep report from the people. This report deserves the strongest support from all the gram sabhas in a reasoned down to top penetration of the several timeless locality specific knowledge base throughout the country now in an emergency manner. The work of fifty years can be done in five or less in these days of mobility via internet and mobile phones. Simultaneously, the knowledge must be converted into facts so admirably narrated in the wgeep report via a scientific layered approach and facts into values aspired after by the grama sabhas. See in this connection my researches in the area of forests and vegetation and people at
Regarding mining see
But there is another aspect of the problems expressed by the wgeep report that needs emphasising because it is lost in the piecemeal approach to the way we may develop that is being adopted by the government and prevalent among the misled people. The irreversible evil cumulative effects of the entire activities of modern civilization requires that modern way of life needs to the thrown overboard in its entirety as advised by Mahatma Gandhi,the genius of Indian civilization and its realistic votary: Given enough time modern civilization will destroy itself.
One of the evils is nuclear energy programmes, which while giving no energy to people, poisons our ecological base irreversibly, introducing radionuclides new to nature into the biosphere, making mutation and extinction a huge scientiific certainty. Thus to fructify preservation of nature it is imperative to do away with nuclear energy programmes now.
See the horrifying details at
I therefore emphasize in this response that I unreservedly endorse the recommendations of the report: [a] Please have it translated in all regional languages and disseminated to all Gram Sabhas and Ward Sabhas to obtain feedback to arrive at appropriate decisions in a down-top fashion, and [b] initiate strong measures to address the issues of deficit in environmental governance as highlighted in the report.
R. Ashok kumar, B.E.,M.E(Power), Negentropist, Bombay Sarvodaya Mandazl, 299, Tardeo Road, Nana Chowk,Mumbai-400007.
July,5, 2012, 1405 hrs.