‘We cannot merely go in for compartmentalised solutions’

Print edition : September 30, 2016

Anil Madhav Dave. Photo: M. PRABHU

Interview with Union Minister Anil Madhav Dave.

THE Union Minister of State for Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Anil Madhav Dave, in his interview to Frontline over telephone, said he would be visiting all the Western Ghats States from Gujarat to Kerala to understand the concerns of each State. Excerpts:

How does the government plan to move ahead on the issue of identifying ecologically sensitive areas in the Western Ghats States?

I called a meeting of the MPs of the Western Ghats States on August 11, 2016, where I heard their concerns. Now I am planning to visit all the States of the Western Ghats by the end of the year, soon after the rains are over. Everywhere there is a clash of environmental concerns, concerns about conservation of forests and the needs of farmers and urban development. Let us first hear what the Chief Minister of each State has to say.

Are you planning to meet the stakeholders too in these States or will it only be a discussion with State governments or Chief Ministers?

Of course, I have to meet the stakeholders to understand what exactly the issues in each State are. I will not be able to meet all of them, but there will be at least one or two such meetings in each of the States.

As you may know, Kerala has gone much ahead of other States, demarcating proposed ESAs after a long and controversial process. But now it seems you are once again going to meet the stakeholders. Does it mean that the process will have to start all over again? There is already a concern that the government is merely trying to drag its feet and that nothing will come out of the new moves either.

Not at all. I have been in this office only for the last two months. This is an important issue and without understanding the local-level realities in all States we cannot merely go in for compartmentalised solutions specific to one or the other State alone. The issues are not the same everywhere. In Kerala, you have the problem of very high population density but the available landmass is far less [compared with other States]. So let us hear what the Chief Minister has to say on this and together we may try to find a mid-way solution for the issue.

The basic demand everywhere seems to be that populated areas should not be included in the list of ESAs. What is the government’s stand on this key issue?

I am confident we will arrive at a satisfactory solution; but let me first hear what each government has to say on the problems in their areas.

But as of now, the Ministry has taken the position that the exercise already undertaken by Kerala so far is not acceptable.

Let us not question anyone’s actions before understanding clearly the reasons for it. I have an open mind on this and am confident that we will arrive at a satisfactory solution.

But will there be a time frame for the government to come to a decision? The validity of the second notification expires in about six months.

We have to move in a time-bound manner on such issues. But you cannot draw a clear-cut line and say it will be done within so many days. But the meetings will be held by the end of the year and my Ministry will come to a decision after that.