Thiruvananthapuram: The Syro Malabar Catholic Church
has termed as a "conspiracy" the Madhav Gadgil-headed Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel report which recommends zoning of 75
percent of the Western Ghats into different grades of ecological
"In the name of environment, this is nothing but a sort of
'terrorist activity'. This report means that a huge section of the
farmers in this district will have to move out of their farm land.
This report is part of an international conspiracy," says a
pastoral letter by the Syro Malabar Catholic Church read out
Sunday at churches in Idukki district.
A pastoral letter is a missive in which a bishop addresses priests
and people in his area.
The Gadgil report zoned 75 percent of the Western Ghats into
different grades of ecological sensitivity.
"The report should not be accepted at all and, if implemented, a
huge section of the people here will be placed two centuries
back," the letter said.
Soon after the Gadgil report was made public, Chief Minister
Oommen Chandy, in a discussion in the Kerala legislative assembly
in June, also expressed reservations on the report.
He made it clear that most of the suggestions were impractical,
and Kerala was opposed to the formation of a new Western Ghats
Ecology Authority (WGEA), a key recommendation, as the state could
ensure protection of its environment within the provisions of
Chandy told the assembly that the government of Kerala had written
to the central government objecting to nine recommendations made
by the committee in the report.
Idukki district, with an area of 4,479 sq km, is the
second-largest district of Kerala with rugged mountains and
forests in about 97 percent of the total area. It also has a large
number of settlers.
A top official of the state environment department, on condition
of anonymity, said the present fear raised by people of Idukki is
because of "confusion".
"As per official forest records, many of the present-day towns in
Idukki district are marked as protected areas and are thickly
populated. The government can make a decision on this aspect and
the confusion can be cleared," the government official said.
The Catholic community has a large following among people in the
district, who eke out a living from farming.