This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Youth Ki Awaaz. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

The ‘Dirty Politics’ That Might Kill The Western Ghats

More from Youth Ki Awaaz

By Pandurang Hegde:

Agumbe is a small village perched on the mountain range of Western Ghats in Karnataka. It is also called the Cheerapunji of South India as it receives the highest rainfall. It is a popular tourist destination, where people come to watch the sunset from the heights of Western Ghats overlooking the Arabian Sea. The greenery around Agumbe is soothing. But as you walk deep into the forests, you will realise that the greenery has its own shades. The greenery of plantations, especially of the acacia exotic species, is strikingly distinguishable from the natural forest. The natural forest has a soothing effect with a diversity of species, whereas the plantation has only a single species with dry hot conditions.

Source: Wikimedia Commons

There is a close link between these two kinds of greenery in Western Ghats, and in urban centers like Bangalore. The water supply to Bangalore comes from Kaveri, the river that originates in Western Ghats. In order to get regular water supply in urban areas, it is essential to have natural growth forests in the catchments of Kaveri. They are the factories that produce pure water. The plantations are like ‘timber mines’. They are ‘green’ but not in a position to recharge water into our tanks and rivers.

According to scientists like Prof. Madhav Gadgil, “It is essential to conserve these natural forests in Western Ghats to secure the water and food security of millions of people in South India”. The forest cover in hill areas should be 66 percent, to provide ecological security. However, in reality the forest cover is less than 10 percent! This reduced percentage of forests is bound to cause disruptions in water supply for Bangalore. Realising this crucial role of natural forests, the call was given to conserve the remaining natural forests by Western Ghats Expert Ecology Panel headed by Prof. Gadgil.

I think this is the only practical way to protect the Western Ghats”, he said. Further emphasizing that people at the village level should be given the power to decide and implement conservation measures, rather than politicians and bureaucrats deciding from above.

Unable to digest this suggestion of devolving powers to people, the politicians have rejected the Gadgil committee report and replaced it with a diluted version of the Kasturirangan report. This gives a free hand to politicians to continue destructive practices like mining, diversion of rivers, and changing land use. The watered down report of Kasturirangan fails to conserve the remaining natural forests in Western Ghats. The irony is that even this diluted report is not palatable to politicians.

I met Rama Gawda of Khanapur, near Belgum, who said, “The politicians say that our village will be vacated, we will not be allowed to cultivate and only wildlife will be allowed to survive?” These kind of rumors were spread deliberately by politicians to create fear psychosis among villagers. Realising the threat to their livelihood they were forced to reject the Kasturirangan report. In almost all the consultations across Western Ghats region in Karnataka, the government sponsored consultation process was based on rumors.

The process of extension of green deserts will continue if we allow politicians to decide the fate of Western Ghats. The youth in cities can play a constructive role in linking the Western Ghats to everyday life.

How this can be done?

Minchu Ideas’ is a small group of women who are working in several schools in Bangalore to create awareness on Western Ghats. They have reached thousands of students and through numerous discussions, slideshows and picture competitions, they have shown the importance of Western Ghats. These students are aware that the water they drink comes from Western Ghats.

In order to get continuous water for future generations, we need to conserve the Western Ghats. However, as a person living in this region, I have experienced that it is being gradually converted into green deserts. The naturally biodiverse forest is shrinking and the unnatural monoculture exotic plantations are spreading. This is like expansion of green deserts in Western Ghats. If you look carefully at the rubber plantations in Kerala and acacia plantations in Karnataka, they reveal the myth of these ‘green’ cover. Though it looks green, the plantations do more harm to ecology and destroys the water source adding to climate change.

The politicians are playing a dirty game in perpetuating the same policies that accelerate the destruction of Ghats. This is evident in the way they have rejected the Gadgil report and now refuse to implement even the watered down Kasturirangan report. By the time these parochial games come to an end, we would have caused irreparable damage to these fragile ecosystems in the Western Ghats.

Check Jhatkaa’s Western Ghats campaign here. Sign the petition here

(Pandurang Hegde is activist of Save Western Ghat Movement, working with Appiko-Chipko Andolan for past three decades. He lives on a small organic farm on the edge of tropical forests in Western Ghats)

You must be to comment.

More from Youth Ki Awaaz

Similar Posts


By Khanjan Ravani


Wondering what to write about?

Here are some topics to get you started

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below