1. Controversies: Gadgil report
  2. Contro: “NO” to Dams in Kerala and Karnataka
  3. Athirappilly Project: Why problem?
  4. Adar Tribal displacement
  5. Gundia Project: why problem?
  6. Contro: R.T.I. stonewallingTM
  7. Contro: Committee pe Committee.
  8. Contro: Angry Kerala Government
  9. Contro: Mining mafias spreading baseless rumors
  10. Contro: Creation of separate authority (WGEA)

In the last three articles, we saw (1) Western Ghats: Basic geography (2) Threats to biodiversity of Western Ghats (3) Gadgil report and recommendations. Now moving forward:

Controversies: Gadgil report

There are 6 main controversies surround Gadgil’s report on Western Ghats.

  1. Gadgil saying “NO” to some Dams in Kerala and Karnataka.
  2. RTI stone wallingTM* (trademark belongs to UPSC)
  3. Committee pe Committee
  4. Angry Kerala Government
  5. Mining mafias spreading baseless rumors (about removal of optional subjects lolz)
  6. Creation of separate authority

Let’s check them one by one:

Contro#1: “NO” to Dams in Kerala and Karnataka

  • Madhav Gadgil had proposed that Environmental Clearance should not be given to any large scale dams in zone #1 and #2.
  • And on the same logic, he also recommended “don’t give environmental clearance to the two proposed dams in Kerala and Karnataka“.
  • let’s see why?
Project Athirappilly Project Gundia
State Kerala Karnataka
River Chalakudy Gundia
Capacity (MW) approx. 150+ 200


Athirappilly Project: Why problem?
Plants – Some new species of plants reported in this region- critically endangered species of riparian trees found here.
Birds Kerala has four species of Hornbills

  1. the Malabar grey hornbill,
  2. grey hornbill,
  3. Malabar pied hornbill
  4. great Indian hornbill

and all of them are found in this Athirappally region.

  • rare species of fishes and amphibians like the torrent frog found here.
  • National Bureau of Fish Genetic Resources has recommended the Chalakudy river to be declared as a Fish Sanctuary
  • Some of the species of fish migrate upstream while some do so downstream to complete their annual life cycle .
  • Hence, construction of the dam will directly affect the survival of these species
  • Entire project area falls under the migratory route of elephants, “project Elephant”.
  • Lion-tailed Macaque, an endemic, endangered species of the Western Ghats, lives here.
  • cane turtle, an endemic and endangered species, first reported here, is currently the only place where they could be seen in reasonable numbers

Adar Tribal displacement

  • Adar tribe is considered to be the most primitive of the South Indian forest tribes
  • They are a primitive hunter and food gatherer tribe originally restricted to the forests and hill tracts of Chalakudy river basin.
  • Their population is fewer than 1500.
  • They’ll be affected by the dam.

Given these factors, Madav Gadgil panel has recommended not to construct the Athirappilly dam.

Gundia Project: why problem?

  • cuckoo bee : a unique species found in Gundia basin
  • Lion-tailed macaque
  • Travancore flying squirrel
  • Nilgiri marten (cat)
  • presence of tiger and elephants sighted.

Therefore Madav Gadgil panel has recommended not to construct dam on Gundia river.

Contro#2: R.T.I. stonewallingTM

  • As you already know, Gadgil recommended that
  • whole Western Ghat be divided into 3 zones
  • no new mining licences should be given in zone 1 and 2.
  • Government must stop all existing mines in Zone 1 by 2016.
  • Government must stop illegal mining activities immediately.
  • ^This is a bitter pill. And no Government wants to swallow (thanks to powerful mining lobby of South West India with deep pockets and political connections.)
  • Anyways, Gadgil submitted his report in 2011.
  • But Environment ministry did not release this report for media/public discussion. (because Ministry’s plan was to let the report gather dust, and take no action on it.)
  • But Someone from Kerala filled R.T.I in 2012 seeking a copy of this report.
  • And Public Information Officer in Environment Ministry said “we cannot disclose Gadgil report because it is still being analysed and considered.” And more importantly: Section 8 (1) (a) of the RTI Act exempts “information, disclosure of which would affect the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security, strategic, scientific or economic interests of the state”.
  • The R.T.I applicant went all the way to CIC.

CIC ordered following

  • The Supreme Court of India has recognized that the right to information is a fundamental right of the citizens of India under Article 19 (1) of the Constitution of India.
  • The RTI Act has codified this fundamental right 19(1) by stating that every citizen shall have the right to information.
  • The RTI Act recognises that a democracy requires an informed citizenry and transparency of information,
  • Therefore, all agents of Government must be responsible for their conduct.
  • The people of this country have a right to know every public act, everything that is done in a public way by their public functionaries.
  • If Gadgil report is disclosed, it’ll enable citizens to debate in an informed manner and they can provide useful feedback to the government.
  • R.T.I Act requires suo moto disclosure by the public authority ‘while’ formulating important policies and not ‘after’ formulating them.
  • Therefore I direct the Ministry of Environment and Forests to publish the report of Gadgil panel.

And thus, environment ministry had to upload the PDF file on its website, (somewhere in mid-2012)

Contro#3: Committee on Committee.

Since Government did not like Gadgil’s recommendations, they formed a new committee headed by Kasturi Rangan to study the report of Gadgil Panel!
Gadgil himself got angry and stated:

  • I’ve merely pointed out many inconvenient truths but Government is trying to suppress my report and evade a democratic debate on its recommendations.
  • And this Kasturi Rangan fellow is keeping me completely out of the loop while assessing my report!

Contro#4: Angry Kerala Government

Kerala Government’s official stand is

  • We cannot accept the recommendations given by Madhav Gadgil.
  • Because most of his suggestions are impractical to implement!
  • Gadgil says “NO” to Athirappally hydroproject but it is essential for our state’s energy security.
  • Kerala’s total hydel potential was estimated to be 6,000 MW, only 35 per cent of it had been harnessed so far.
  • But Gadgil has instead suggested decommissioning of dams which were 35 to 40 years old.
  • This would pose a question mark on the existing and proposed power projects and would plunge our state into darkness.
  • Gadgil did not make concrete proposals on Revenue loss suffered by the state Government while implementing the recommendations (e.g. no mining in zone#1=no royalties payment from miners.)

Land Mafias of Kerala

  1. Land mafias (with political support) have grabbed lot of area in the forests and surrounding regions of Western Ghats.
  2. Now Madhav Gadgil says no to Development activities in such sensitive zones. = problem for politicians and mafias.
  3. Kerala Government fears that if we try to evict those mafias and other farmers, it’ll led to huge protests and violence (as it happened in Munnar Grasslands earlier).
  4. Kerala government “fears” that Gadgil’s recommendations will impact on “growth”.
  5. Gadgil says set up new Western Ghats Ecology Authority (WGEA). But we are capable of preserving the Western Ghats within provisions of the existing laws.

Contro#5: Mining mafias spreading baseless rumors

Gadgil said

  1. donot give permission for new mines in Zone #1 and #2.
  2. And whatever mines are operational in zone #1,=close them down by 2016.”
  3. Shut down illegal mining immediately.
  • This has greatly upset the mining lobby. Now their agents are provoking the farmers and tribals in Western ghat region with baseless rumor that “Gadgil has recommend to throw you out of your villages and make wildlife sanctuaries everywhere!”
  • So now some farmers and tribals are protesting against Gagdil’s report.
Gadgil clarifies
  • My report contains no proposal for relocation of any farmer or tribals from jungle areas!
  • Infact, I’ve suggested financial assistance be given to farmers organic farming.
  • It is the mining lobby particularly of Goa is behind this mischief.

Contro#6: Creation of separate authority (WGEA)

  • Gadgil recommended setting up an autonomous statutory authority Western Ghats Ecology Authority (WGEA) to oversee the conservation of Western Ghats in the 6 states.
  • But state Governments fear that such authority will take away their Decision Making power (and the bribe opportunity that comes with it for granting project approvals!)
  • Therefore, state Governments are against creating WGEA. They say, existing regulatory framework is sufficient to protect the Western Ghats.