Days after another major flood in Kerala, Madhav Gadgil head of the Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel (WGEEP) of 2010, popularly known as the Gadgil Commission slammed Kerala government for sanctioning permission to quarries in environmentally sensitive areas. Though Gadgil report was criticized as biased against development the recent floods in Kerala were as predicted by the report. However, the report was neglected by the governments in Kerala.
Though recognized as legal, these quarries were allowed to run despite running the risk of landslides; 10 out of the 11 pockets which witnessed major landslides, and where 91 quarries operated, were classified as ecologically sensitive zones and asked to be banned from mining and quarrying by the Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel in a report presented to the government in 2011. Kerala has a total 5,924 quarries, an average of six quarries per panchayat, of which 3,332 are in the ecologically sensitive zones identified by Gadgil.
When the Gadgil report was blamed as biased against development, the government constituted another committee, the high-level working group or the Kasturirangan committee, which reflected the same opinion and recommended a reduced zone of protection. But even by the Kasturirangan committee report, five out of these 11 landslide areas should have been banned from mining and quarrying. Wherever landslides happened, there were granite quarries on the other side of the hill, say experts.
Ecologists warn that if the destruction goes on unchecked, future floods could bring even bigger disasters in the Western Ghats which is considered as India’s monsoon gateway.