Kochi: That Kerala has been passing through one of the worst spells of heat wave even before the state could recover from one of the biggest floods a year ago brings to focus the threats posed by climate change.
Although the heat wave and floods have highlighted the dangerous portents for the state the election narrative, considered as the most valuable democratic exercise for the people, conspicuous by the silence maintained by the mainstream political parties are the hazards faced by the state on account of the climate change and ecological degradation.
Apart from a politically motivated acrimony over the floods, the political leadership of the mainstream parties has made no attempt to highlight the ecological issues facing the state in the election campaign. The civil society organisations such as Kerala Sastra Sahitya Parishad (KSSP) are also keeping a studied silence on the issue despite clear signs that Kerala, known for having a very fragile ecological balance, needed to take urgent steps in fixing the ecological priorities of the state.
The Third Manifesto of Save Western Ghats Forum assumes importance in this background as it provides a road-map and frame-work for addressing the issues connected with the conservation of the Ghats. The conservation of the Ghats, recognised as an ecological hotspot, is one of the basic needs for mitigating the ill-effects of the climate change in the region.
Although the political class remains indifferent to the cause of the Ghats, the persons behind the Save Western Ghats Forum however are not so pessimistic on the subject. While issuing the Third Manifesto, the Forum has highlighted the achievements of the previous two manifestos brought out on the eve of the 2009 and 2014 elections.
The Forum stated the two manifestos had an impact on voters and political parties. The main outcomes were:
*Formation of MPs Forum on Western Ghats in Lok Sabha.
*Declaration of 45 sites in Western Ghats as World Heritage Sites.
*The formation of Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel by the Ministry of Environment and Forests.
*First ever comprehensive report by Madhav Gadgil on Western Ghats recommending grass root level strategies to conserve Western Ghats. The rejection of Gadgil Committee and formation of Kasturirangan Committee on Western Ghats and its rejection by some state governments are thanks to the petty politics that took over ecological issues.
*National Green Tribunal orders the governments to implement Kasturirangan report and declare ESA (Ecologically Sensitive Areas) in Western Ghats, which is opposed by state governments.
*The devastation floods in Kerala and Coorg proved the urgent need to address the issue conservation v/s development debate in Western Ghats.
Reviewing the impact of past five years, the Forum says it can be said that as a citizen's initiative, the Western Ghats Manifesto had enormous impact at policy level as well as at the grassroots level.
The Forum has also stated that the floods during the monsoon in 2018 have brought back the debate of Gadgil v/s Kasturirangan reports and the need to have a common minimum programme of action to save Western Ghats.