ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

Articles by Madhav GadgilSubscribe to Madhav Gadgil

Today's Environmentalism

Environmental activism in India comprises two streams. The first focuses on protected areas and relies on the bureaucracy that often misuses its powers against communities that live in close contact with nature. The second focuses on protecting nature to safeguard people's livelihoods and health. The environmental agenda should focus on the reassertion of people's rights over natural resources, and this should be coupled with an action-oriented promotion of nature-friendly cooperative enterprises in sectors like quarrying, and mineral and sand mining.

Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel

The Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel report advocates replacing the current pattern of exclusionary development and conservation by an inclusive regime, respecting the existing, but currently sabotaged, constitutional and legal provisions for environmental protection and democratic devolution of the decision-making process. The report's objective assessment of the prevailing situation and the recommendations that it should be taken to all the gram sabhas, and appropriate regulatory and promotional measures decided through a bottom-up democratic process were unacceptable to those currently benefiting from the perpetuation of an economy of violence. They attempted to first suppress and then subvert the report. There are, however, hopeful signs that the report's message is getting across to the people.

Empowering Gramsabhas to Manage Biodiversity:The Science Agenda

Traditional biodiversity management models have followed a "control and command" approach and need to be replaced by a transparent and inclusive "inform and share" approach. The recently passed Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Rights to the Forest) Act 2006 offers a welcome opportunity to put in place such transparent and participatory biodiversity management models.

Science and the Right to Information

The many streams of human knowledge have been shaped by an interplay of seeking after truth and telling calculated lies. Of these, the folk and classical streams cannot effectively discriminate empirically valid knowledge from beliefs, and have grown slowly. Science is notably an organised enterprise of scepticism, anchoring itself firmly on the bedrock of empirical facts, thereby ensuring that deliberate manipulation of information is quickly exposed and eliminated. Official knowledge, though claiming to be science based, permits itself to be manipulated by vested interests, by discouraging scrutiny. As a result, much of the information base for managing India's environment is incomplete, outdated, or downright bogus. The only way to correct this is to expose it to public scrutiny. The new Right to Information Act makes this possible. The tools of information and communication technology can facilitate such scrutiny by making available all relevant information, in full detail, on a publicly accessible website. Together, these developments present a tremendous opportunity to replace the current bureaucratic "control and command" by a "share and inform" approach.

A System of Positive Incentives to Conserve Biodiversity

India's current programmes for conservation of biodiversity suffer from major defects and need to be radically. restructured to meet present-day challenges, such as the conservation of the entire spectrum of biodiversity including insignificant components, and the need to integrate traditional conservation practices of local communities in new programmes.


compounded not only by giving weightage to Centrally-sponsored schemes in different areas of development which fall within the sphere of responsibility of the states, but also by more detailed supervision by Central authorities of the allocation of funds and their deployment under these schemes. This is bound to hamstring the initiative of the states in the implementation of these schemes in the light of local conditions and circumstances. Such a dispensation is bound to create frictions and tensions in Centre- State relations which will in due course find political expressions in a variety of ways and forms. The fact is that the Prime Minister does not subscribe and is indeed allergic to the concept and principles of a federal polity. He is fond of insisting that India is not a federal set-up but is a union in which Central authority is supreme and must prevail in regulating relations between the Centre and states. This is the basic position which colours his views on strengthening national unity and integration.

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