[Ecologist] Gadgil believed Kerala’s plight could have been mitigated if his panel’s recommendations to drastically curb “developmental activities" in the Western Ghats were followed.

When I reached him at home in Pune, Gadgil told me the same is true of Goa1. “I think it is unpardonable that huge infrastructure projects have been rammed through with such dubious assessment reports, both in terms of biodiversity and hydrology. Very bad environmental management pandering to moneyed interests is taking us toward disasters all over the country," he said.

That’s also the view of Edgar Ribeiro, distinguished ex-director of New Delhi’s School of Planning and Architecture, and former chief planner to the Government of India. Earlier this year, the 88-year-old (his older brother, highly decorated “top cop" Julio turned 90 in May) led a public interest litigation (PIL) challenging massive concretization of Goa’s tiny 200-year-old capital Panjim via an egregiously manipulated Outline Development Plan.

As the PIL had stated, “the planning authority violated its planning brief, to solicit and entertain vested interests demands for land use changes contrary to public interest and objectives, and spatial planning norms…If the changes are allowed to prevail, the original character, identity and functioning would deteriorate beyond recognition and the city and its services would eventually collapse."

Ribeiro watched last week’s devastating floods—when parts of Panjim were inundated waist-deep—from his home in Porvorim, just across the Mandovi river. 


  • 1. On 6 August, all nine rivers of India’s smallest state spilled their banks and spread fast into paddy fields, then flooded right into villages and towns. Incessant, pounding rain and shearing winds collapsed electricity poles and satellite towers. The main interstate approach roads through the Western Ghats (as well as Konkan Railway) were shut down by landslides, and many of the new haphazardly built roadways flooded precipitously. The gleaming Atal Setu bridge, opened in January with much fanfare by late chief minister Manohar Parrikar was plunged into darkness, inaccessible due to several feet of water pooled at one end. Goa reeled, submerged.