MUMBAI: Information about an ecological report on the Western Ghats prepared by a panel led by noted expert Madhav Gadgil was initially denied under the RTI by the central government citing economic interests of the concerned states, a former CIC said on Monday.
Gadgil had headed the Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel (WGEEP) set up by the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests. In its 2011 report, the panel had recommended classifying several areas of the Western Ghats as ecologically sensitive.
The seven-year-old report has come into limelight following devastating floods in Kerala, after Gadgil said last week that it was a man-made disaster as illegal constructions on river beds and unauthorised stone quarrying in the southern state contributed to the calamity.
Speaking to PTI, former Central Information Commissioner Shailesh Gandhi said today that he had asked the MoEF to make the report public in an order passed on April 9, 2012.
Gandhi said the order followed a second appeal filed by an RTI (Right to Information) applicant in 2012.
The former CIC said he had also asked the MoEF at that time to put in public domain all such reports set up by the government using taxpayers’ money.
G Krishnan, a resident of Ernakulam in Kerala, had filed an RTI with the MoEF in September 2011 to obtain a summary of the report but the plea was denied by the Public Information Officer (PIO) and the First Appellate Authority citing sections 8 and 9 of the RTI Act.
The two sections deal with circumstances under which information asked in an RTI plea can be denied.
Krishnan then filed a second appeal and Gandhi ordered that the applicant be given the report summary under section 4 of the RTI Act.
Gandhi’s order stated that “citizens and civil society, who are actively pursuing the objective of protecting the bio-diversity of ecologically sensitive regions, flora, fauna and endangered species, now have access to information which allows them to obtain a true picture of our ecosystem.”
The union government, however, challenged the CIC order in the Delhi High Court but its plea was rejected by Justice Vipin Sanghi in an order passed on May 17, 2012.
The Centre had subsequently set up another panel under space scientist K Kasturirangan, which watered down the environmental regulations regime proposed in the Gadgil report.