Pune, August 19: Ecologist Madhav Gadgil, founder of the Centre for Ecological Sciences at the Indian Institute of Science, Bengaluru, has described the floods in Kerala as a man-made disaster; a reaction to the illegal excavations, stone quarrying done over a decade.

In an interview to Hindustan Times, Gadgil said, “Irresponsible environmental policy is to be blamed for the recent floods and landslides in Kerala. Extensive stone quarrying and mushrooming of high-rises as part of tourism, and illegal forest land acquisition by private parties are the major reasons for the recent floods in the state.”

Most of the areas affected by this monsoon were once classified as ecologically-sensitive zones by the Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel , also known as the Gadgil Committee, formed in 2010 the Centre.

Accusing the successive Kerala governments of inaction, Gadgil said, “We had first submitted the report in 2011...we were in a sense boycotted by government officials as we had recommended them to stop illegal activities...”

Gadgil said that the report had very specifically pointed that if the stone quarrying was not stopped, it might eventually lead to natural calamities “like the one happening in the state today”. However, the establishments turned a deaf ear to the recommendations. According to Gadgil, a total of 1,650 excavators were deployed for stone quarrying and mining, of which only 150 were given permissions.

Expressing grief over the situation in Kerala, Gadgil said, “The government should at least now stop all the illegal stone quarrying activities after having faced the consequences. Although it is late, the government must act on the recommendations ...”

Courtesy: www.hindustantimes.com

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Hong Kong, Oct 25: Amnesty International said Monday it would close its two offices in Hong Kong this year, becoming the latest non-governmental organization to cease its operations amid a crackdown on political dissent in the city.

The human rights group said its local office in Hong Kong would close this month while its regional office will close by the end of the year, with regional operations moved to other offices in the Asia-Pacific region.

This decision, made with a heavy heart, has been driven by Hong Kong's national security law, which has made it effectively impossible for human rights organizations in Hong Kong to work freely and without fear of serious reprisals from the government, Anjhula Mya Singh Bais, chair of Amnesty's board, said in a statement.

Hong Kong implemented a sweeping national security law in 2020 following months of massive anti-government protests. The law outlaws secession, subversion of state power, terrorism and foreign collusion to intervene in the city's affairs. More than 120 people, many of them supporters of the city's democracy movement, have been arrested under the law.

The majority of the city's prominent pro-democracy activists are behind bars for taking part in unauthorized assemblies, and dozens of political organizations and trade unions have ceased operations out of concern for their members' personal safety under the security law.

Bais said the recent targeting of local human rights and trade union groups signaled authorities were intensifying their campaign to rid the city of dissenting voices. It is increasingly difficult for us to keep operating in such an unstable environment, she said.

Critics in Hong Kong say the national security law is an erosion of freedoms, such as those of expression and assembly, that were promised the city for 50 years when the former British colony was handed over to China in 1997.