Senior Congress party leader Jairam Ramesh said here on Saturday that there was no substitute for the role of political decision making and democratic process where environmental conservation in the country was concerned.Ramesh said this while speaking at a public lecture titled "Indira Gandhi and Silent Valley Revisited" at the Centre for Development Studies (CDS), here on Saturday.While acknowledging that a host of stakeholders such as civil society, media, academia and expert committees had played key roles in framing the debate surrounding the 'Save Silent Valley' movement of the 1970s and 80s, which led to the creation of the Silent Valley National Park in Palakkad district in Kerala in 1984, Ramesh said the political perseverance of former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was the deciding factor.The Silent Valley National Park was a unique preserve of natural rain forests spread over an area of 237. 52 sq. km, that houses a rich mosaic of varied habitats.
"Gandhi was able to accommodate democratic process without compromising on biodiversity preservation. Contemporary conservation efforts could benefit from understanding the factors which drove outcomes during the Save Silent Valley movement," said Ramesh.Ramesh in an informal interactive session with students and research scholars at CDS highlighted the transformation that the Indian economy as well as the nature of discourse which surrounded it had undergone in the last three decades."The primacy of GDP growth as the singular metric of performance in the post-liberalisation period pushed earlier discourse surrounding planning, poverty, agriculture and labour to the fringes." "While high growth rates led to a significant decline in the rates of poverty, it had been accompanied by a concurrent rise in the levels of inequality which was associated with unequal levels of access to education, healthcare and nutrition," said Ramesh.