Wednesday, November 21, 2012

25 is no age to call it a day....

In an earlier post, we had observed that any 'movement' is 70 per cent work of 'art' and 30 per cent 'commerce'. The recently concluded silver jubilee event of SWGM was a clear reflection on that observation.

Young, Energetic and Dynamic is what best describes the Save Western Ghats Movement as it commemorated its silver jubilee in Kundai, Goa on Nov 17-18, 2012. Young because over 108 activists, researchers, architects, accountants, theatre enthusiasts, panchayat leaders, homemakers, musicians and students thronged the venue from 5 different states on their own; Energetic because the participants demonstrated die-hard attitude to collectively sustain the movement for another 25 years and Dynamic because they have been ever eager to re-invent the movement to conform to the changing socio-economic and geo-political environment. The congregation declared that 25 is no age to call it a calls for a fresh beginning instead!

The Navhind Times reported that the activists at the 25th anniversary celebrations of the Save Western Ghats Movement (SWGM) resolved to take the findings and recommendations of the Gadgil committee report to the people, aiming to get the gram sabhas to adopt resolutions in support of the report that calls for protecting biodiversity hotspots. The newspaper further reported that the activists resolved to sustain the struggle to save the Western Ghats by engaging in talks with those driving the political economy in the entire region. To be able to do so, it was resolved to revive the historic march across the Western Ghats to re-ignite peoples’ involvement in preserving the ecosystem.

Gautham Sarang, who at 7 had been the youngest marcher in the historic 1987-88 Western Ghats march, participated in the silver jubilee event with his wife and young child. He recalled his experience and how his participation in the event twenty five years ago had strong bearing on his life. Gautham called upon the younger generation to be the torch-bearer in taking the unfinished task of preserving the pristine ecosystem of the Western Ghats further. Representing anti-nuclear movement of Jaitapur, Vaishali Patil was quoted by The Times of India for saying: 'The manner in which we are being governed, activists can either be found campaigning on the streets or jailed under fictitious pretexts.' Kalanand Mani had set the tone for the event by appraising the house about the history of the movement.  

Covering the event, The Economic Times reported that the movement has extended its support to Goa's demand to get its section of Western Ghats on UNESCO's list of world heritage sites. The UNESCO list of world heritage sites had no mention of Goa, even as it has listed 39 sites in Kerala, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra. Once Goa's Western Ghats section gets recognized as a world heritage site by UNESCO, the Western Ghats, Goa sector, would be in the focus of national and international attention.As a significant move, the SWGM took a firm stand to support the ongoing anti-nuclear movements in Kundakulum and Jaitapur and to oppose any future attempt at bringing nuclear power in the Western Ghats.

Enlisting the nature of unresolved ecological challenges, Appiko leader Pandurang Hegde was quoted by The Times of India for having stressed the need to reinvent the movement and its strategies to suit the changing political and economic environment in the country. ‘The geo-politics of development need to be understood in right earnest to evolve strategies for the future,’ he stressed. In its 25th year, the movement focused on the need to get the ‘idea of the western ghats’ across to both upstream and downstream communities. That the Western Ghats are the water towers of the peninsular India ought to be brought to the imagination of the downstream population in towns and cities, the SWGM press release noted.

The two-day event was hosted by the Kundai-based Peaceful Society and was held under the auspices of the Save Western Ghats Movement. Based on sub-group discussions, the SWGM extended support to numerous campaigns currently being waged on the issues of tourism impact, wildlife corridors, micro-hydel interventions and infrastructure projects for protection of the rich biodiversity of the Western Ghats. Notable among those who spoke at the event were Carmen Miranda, Hartman de Souza, N Badusha, R R Srinivasan, MacMohan, Jaychandran, G Janardhan, Ashok Kundapur and Gangadharan. As has been the tradition, the bamboo band led by Unnikrishnan Pakkanar provided the perfect musical tone to the celebrations. Performance by the Space Theatre Ensemble had offered icing on the cultural cake.

Homemakers from Bangalore-based Minchu Ideas not only added colors to the event but sang inspirational songs at the event in keeping up with the spirit.The group vowed to take the issues to urban population and educate them in their inimitable style. The most significant aspect of the silver jubilee celebration was that it was supported by individual contributions in cash and kind. Upholding the tradition of otherwise fast-waning spirit of voluntarism, each of the participants made cash contributions before the close of the event. Such gesture augers well for the future of the Save Western Ghats Movement.  

Monday, November 12, 2012

Be part of it as history repeats itself

Save Western Ghats Movement, hailed as the finest environmental movement in the country, is quarter century old and is still going strong. A two day event at Kundai in Goa on Nov 17-18, 2012 will mark the silver jubilee celebrations for re-commitment to save the pristine Western Ghats. It was back in 1987 that the famous march (see picture), from the south and north of the Western Ghats, had culminated at this very location.

As a run up to this historic event, the movement was re-launched in 2009 to build up momentum  for developing a common strategy to bring the issue of conservation of the ghats to the mainstream. A Citizen's Manifesto for the Elected Representatives was adopted and a demand for creating Western Ghats Ecological Authority was raised at a well attended three-day congregation. A year later, in 2010, intense lobbying and advocacy by civil society actors had led to the setting up Western Ghat Expert Ecology Panel (WGEEP) under the chairmanship of Prof. Madhav Gadgil. The controversial report has sought drastic policy changes, seeking ban on mining, infrastructure and hydel projects in sensitive areas alongside keeping the Western Ghats ‘GM’ free. Much to the dislike of the civil society, the Ministry of Environment and Forests has set-up another committee to review the report (the committee has yet to submit its report).

SWGM that had successfully lobbied with state and central Governments to change policies towards protection of Western Ghats, notably being the establishment of Western Ghats Task Force in Karnataka and WGEEP at the Centre, aims to engage with representatives of local institutions like Gram Panchayats and Zilla Panchayats to spruce up its efforts in ensuring that the WGEEP report is adopted in letter and spirit.

Rechristened as ‘movement of the movements’, the silver jubilee congregation will focus on sharing the experiences  of ongoing movements in the Western Ghats and evolve a common strategy to enforce eco-friendly policy decisions. It is also an attempt to revive the spirit of voluntarism at a time when vested interests are co-opting grassroots movements through the power of 'funds' and 'opportunities'.

One hundred delegates from five difference states, Goa, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu, are taking part in the event. The event will be inaugurated by Justice Kolse Patil, an active member of Jaitapur Nuclear Movement and will be joined by the activists of the Kudankulam Nuclear Movement among others. Goa's Minister of Environment is another dignitary who is likely to grace the occasion.

For participation and media inquiries, contact 09448818099 or 09422439857