On 4th September 2015, the Environment Ministry issued a new draft notification on how much of our beautiful Western Ghats would fall under “Ecologically Sensitive Areas” (ESA) and be protected. The notification refers to HLWG (High Level Working Group commonly known as Kasturirangan Committee Report) which reduces the area of the Ecologically Sensitive Area (ESA) in the Western Ghats to 37 percent as compared to the report of Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel (WGEEP) headed by Madhav Gadgil which recommended of keeping the entire Western Ghats be kept as ESA. The Draft notification S.O.2435(E) issued by the Environment Ministry on 4/9/2015 was put up online(in English & Hindi) subjected to public discussion. The public now has till Nov 3rd to record their responses to this new notification to the Ministry. With only 20 days , some of the students at Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore decided to organize a move for generating consciousness, gathering opinion for ‘Save the Western Ghats’ campaign. They decided to write a letter to the Minister for Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MOEF) and put forth their thoughts regarding the draft notification .
After extensive discussions they come up with a list of propositions. As pointed out at the very beginning of their letter –
Draft notification S.O.2435(E) issued by the Environment Ministry on 4/9/2015 was put up online (in English & Hindi) subjected to public discussion. However the large majority who happen to live deep in the forests of the Westerns Ghats have no access to internet. Moreover this draft refers to the High Level Working Group (HLWG) report and no where does take into account, a more holistic Western Ghats Ecological Expert Panel (WGEEP) report. The (WGEEP) was not properly circulated among the local communities . Even in cases when it was done, the report was widely misrepresented for some reason or the other. The people were led to believe that they will face eviction, displacement and loss of livelihood if ESAs were created. We strongly feel that it is a failure on part of the government to clear the misconceptions among the people about the Madhav Gadgil Committee report (WGEEP).The (HLWG) report that this draft notification refers to was also not circulated among the communities.”
They sincerely want the draft notification, along with both (HLWG) & (WGEEP) reports be widely circulated and presented in an unbiased manner among these communities in their respective languages ,discussed at grassroot levels and subjected to decisions taken by the gram sabhas.
The set of suggestions critical of the draft notice were supported by more than 500 students, research scholars in the form of their signatures collected over the last three days (from 14th October ).
The students then organized a poster demonstration on 17th October, where students , research scholars were encouraged to bring their own posters.
While the students appreciated the ministry’s efforts to promote renewable sources of energy in our country in this era of Climate Change , they also suggested the ministry to be conscious of the ethics driving the actions. They mentions in their letter-
” In this regard , we still encourage the ministry to use clean renewable sources of energy for the purpose of energy supply. But the ethics driving the actions should change. The mode of power generation and the technologies involved should be integrated with the sustainability of the local environmental conditions. We strongly advocate the use of micro & mini hydel projects in eco-sensitive areas.
‘Dam’less hydroelectric technologies e.g. Gorlov Helical Turbine, Underwater Electric Kite , Open Hydro Turbines or similar other technologies that can generate power from stream flows can be considered to meet needs of several townships, villages. However sufficient attention must be given on the fish mortality with the installation of these turbines and their rotation speeds , design should be regulated accordingly . The idea is to meet local power demand and not to feed to the grids, if we are so inclined to generate power in such an eco-sensitive area. Much focus should be given upon the Energy Distribution issue.”
“Much of our energy problems concerns- Energy demand & Energy Distribution. Adequate efforts should be given to understanding the pertinent problems thereby shaping an ‘Optimal and sustainable energy policy’.”
At the poster demonstration event , the letter was read out and then invited further opinions that could be included. The letter would now be sent to the concerned ministry . However the students urge students, teachers, research scholars of other institutes to join as well . It was discussed at the gathering that the movement will be carried forward through the dissemination of information on these issues in and out of campus. The students look forward to inviting scientists , professors and other field experts as well , to have an open discussion on this issue and adopt necessary course of actions in the upcoming days.
“We are already in a ‘point of no return’ phase. Nothing much can be done to revert(within a time scale of centuries) the already aggravated situations as far climate change and such other factors are concerned. But what we can definitely do is to retard the pace of this change. We must join hands to protect what we have instead of indulging in the rat-race of exploiting the available resources. Talking and promoting ‘Sustainability’ on one hand and following something contradictory to the former on the other – will not keep much for our future generations to thrive sustainably.”