//Silent Valley Buffer Zone soon: Benoy Viswom

Silent Valley Buffer Zone soon: Benoy Viswom

The Hindu, 24 Nov 2006

Minister presents P.V. Thampy Environment Award to Indianur Gopi

RECOGNITION: Minister for Forest Benoy Viswom presenting the P.V. Thampy Environment Award to Indianur Gopi at a ceremony in Kochi on Thursday. Photo: Vipin Chandran

KOCHI: The Silent Valley Buffer Zone will be a reality soon, Forest Minister Benoy Viswom has said. The zone, proposed to soak in the pressures on Silent Valley and thus preserve the evergreen forest that outlived several threats in the past, could materialise in the near future, Mr. Viswom said.

The Minister was speaking after presenting the P.V. Thampy memorial endowment award to environmentalist and Bharatappuzha Samrakshana Samithi activist Indianur Gopi here on Thursday. The award was instituted by the Environment Monitoring Forum, which was set up by the late P.V. Thampy, journalist and environmentalist. The annual award honours "uncommon acts of ordinary citizens" to help preserve the environment.

Recalling people's initiative in the 1970s and 1980s to check the destruction of Silent Valley, the Minister said one of the great gains of Kerala's past 50 years was the emergence of environmentalism. However, he noted, even now it was rare that the protection of the environment was discussed in conjunction with debates on development.

He felt that Communists had a special responsibility to take steps to preserve the environment and to get people involved in conservation activities. He urged social and political organisations and the media to promote a healthy debate on development and environmental preservation.

Indianur Gopi, who led the save-Bharatappuzha campaign since 1988, said the river was in a worse shape than when he and his colleagues had started the campaign. He said only a strong political will on the part of the Government coupled with determined efforts by society could save the dying river. He regretted that both the LDF and UDF lacked the will. Mr. Gopi remarked that destruction of forests was the common during the LDF and UDF rule.

Stressing the need to preserve the rivers, hills and forests for the future water needs of the State, Mr. Gopi said providing drinking water to the people was a `basic political responsibility.' He said the outcome of his campaign to save the river and the hills and rice fields in the Bharatappuzha basin was a mixture of "little achievements and big setbacks" as the river was deteriorating by the day.

V.D. Satheesan, MLA, quoting his own experiences as a legislator, highlighted the futility of development without environment. M.K. Sanu recalled the contributions of P.V. Thampy to the intellectual life of Kerala and praised his environmental protection initiatives.

C.J. John, secretary of the Environment Monitoring Forum, said honouring Mr. Gopi for his efforts to save the Bharatappuzha sent out a strong signal to people in central Kerala as regards the need to save the Periyar.