As part of our advocacy work on the conservation of the Western Ghats, we met with senior officials at the Ministry of Environment, Forests, and Climate Change in Delhi on 17th December, 2014. We met with Mr. Shashi Shankar and Mr. GV Subramaniam, who confirmed that public consultation would be a part of the ground­truthing exercise in all the states. Additionally, Mr. Subramaniam confirmed that the reports the states are supposed to submit will mention who was consulted, how many people were consulted, and who the stakeholders are. He said the Ministry verification of this, if any, would be random.

What we have found on the ground is a far removed from this promise of proper public consultation. In most cases, we found that there is no clarity on the public consultation process, that major environmentalists and NGOs in the state have not been involved, and that information has not been disseminated in the local languages so that villagers who are inhabiting possible zones that need to be declared as ESAs for the protection of the Western Ghats can have access to it.

Instead, powerful local politicians and individuals with vested interests (such as landowners and those associated with ecologically harmful industries) have often hijacked the narrative and deliberately created ill will and egregious misinformation in order to prejudice communities against the Gadgil and Kasturirangan reports, as well as the idea of ESAs.

Click this link to access the report: Western Ghats Fact Finding Report (PDF)