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Noted ecologist Madhav Gadgil has expressed the hope that the renewed interest in the Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel (WGEEP) report in the State would lead to a better understanding of the recommendations, prompting environment-friendly decisions which enjoy popular support.

Confusion over the WGEEP report persists because it was not presented properly before grama sabhas for finalising decisions based on their feedback, Mr. Gadgil, the panel's chairman, said in an interview with former State Biodiversity Board chairman V.S. Vijayan. The short interview was screened at the Spaces Fest organised by DC Books here on Thursday.

With smartphones and mobile apps, data at the ground level can be collected very easily today, he pointed out. “Let the report go to the grams sabhas in the Western Ghats. Let them understand it, and, within one year, I think, very good decisions supported by the people that are also environmentally positive will emerge,” he said.

Proper feedback

Being a small panel with meagre resources, the best it could do was submit “broad-based recommendations,” he said. The committee had explicitly stated that as soon as the report was submitted, it should be translated into regional languages, including Malayalam, and submitted to the panchayats and grama sabhas in the Western Ghats area for obtaining their feedback.

“This was meant to ensure that our recommendations are not considered bureaucratic, rigid prescriptions,” he said. If it had been sincerely attempted, the feedback could have been collected by 2012-13 and concrete steps taken over the subsequent six years. “Of course, this was not done, very deliberately and unfortunately, and so the confusion persists,” he said.

The panel never advised coercion in implementing its recommendations, but called for full public participation in the exercise, Mr. Gadgil added.

Rather than blindly abiding by existing criteria for ecologically sensitive areas, the panel had taken an approach that considered different levels of ecological sensitivity, he pointed out.

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