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Ernakulam: Madhav Gadgil, who triggered a heated debate on India’s ecological hotspots with a 2011 ministerial report on Western Ghats, will visit Kerala to give his version of what caused the devastating floods. The visit is significant, given that his report got a fresh lease of life in post-flood Kerala, where a war of words has broken out between those who support development and those who are for protecting the ecology.

He is a also a central figure, whose words can cause ripples in Kerala’s political set-up. Although his report on how to protect biodiversity hotspot in the Western Ghats found support from many corners, it was rejected by Kerala after widespread street agitations from people who thought their livelihoods might be affected.

Gadgil will visit Kerala on 31 August, on the invitation of Kerala High Court Lawyer’s Association, a sub-group of the Indian Association of Lawyers. He is expected to make a detailed presentation on what caused the floods, before visiting some of the affected regions to see the damage for himself, said an organizer who did not want to be named.

“He will be talking about decommissioning of old dams and how human intervention on vulnerable corners of Western Ghats contributed to the flood damage, among other topics," said the organizer.

The announcement of the programme has already caused a buzz; the organizers are flooded with requests to interview Gadgil from almost all major print and television news networks in the state. A huge number of people have also shown interest to attend his talk.

“We primarily thought of this as a way to engage Kerala high court judges with Gadgil’s thoughts. The floods are bound to make a course correction for everyone, including the judges who will be writing verdicts on matters where the environment and development are at odds," the organizer added.

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Gadgil’s analysis on Friday will also find its way to the ongoing political blame game over the floods. Both at the state and national levels, Kerala’s opposition parties, the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), have held that the floods were partly if not fully man-made, sensing an opportunity to attack the ruling Communist party government.

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A Mint analysis on 21 August showed that there was some concentration of the flood damage in ecologically sensitive areas identified in Gadgil’s report, which could be a result of unchecked quarrying, construction and flawed dam management. Gadgil had told The Indian Express on 20 August that the floods were man-made, and if his recommendations had been implemented the damage would have been much less. However, the government has blamed unusually heavy rains for the floods as the main reason.

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