Madhav Gadgil, Professor of Interdisciplinary Studies at Goa University and Chair of India’s expert panel on Western Ghats ecology, shares this year’s prestigious Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement with Jane Lubchenco of Oregon State University, USA. The 2015 Tyler Prize, announced today, recognises their leadership and engagement in the development of conservation and sustainability policies in India, the United States and internationally.
Gadgil’s landmark report on the biodiversity of Western Ghats known as the “Gadgil Committee” report offered guidelines on the protection and development of India’s Western Ghats, a UNESCO World Heritage site and one of the eight most biological diverse areas on earth. His body of work has helped India draft the National Biological Diversity Act. Lubchenco, the former administrator of the federal agency National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has for long advocated the importance of the ocean and the need to protect it. The U.S. Department of State named her the first-ever science envoy for the Ocean, to promote this focus on ocean science, marine ecology, climate change and smart policy to a global audience.
“Drs. Lubchenco and Gadgil represent the very best in bringing high-quality science to policy making to protect our environment and ensure the sustainability of natural resources in their respective countries and around the world,” said Tyler Prize Executive Committee Chair Owen T. Lind, Professor of Biology at Baylor University announcing the prize winners. Lubchenco and Gadgil will share the $200,000 cash prize and each receive a gold medallion. The Prize, awarded by the international Tyler Prize Executive Committee with the administrative support of the University of Southern California, honours exceptional foresight and dedication in the environmental sciences and policy.
Gadgil’s career has been dedicated to marrying environmental science with policy making in India and promoting environmental science nationally. Through his public speaking and writing, Gadgil has advanced the field of environmental science and put it on the national radar. “From an early age, my father’s work inspired me to work with people and think about the impact of our collective activities,” Gadgil said in a release. “This first came about in my work in 1975 when traditional basket weavers who depended on bamboo in the Western Ghats approached the government and said the overexploitation of bamboo for paper mills was hurting their livelihood.”
Gadgil’s work began examining the tension between economic development, traditional use of resources among local communities and environmental conservation. This cross-sector approach drove the publication of his first book, This Fissured Land, which is used in environmental education across India, as well as a resource for policy makers.
According to Gadgil, the Western Ghats are central to India’s water supply, genetic diversity, economy and quality of life. “The Indian constitution is about empowering people and our resource management is too top down. Local communities do a better job of balancing economic development and conservation. We must have policies that empower local people to make these choices.”
Working with local forest communities in the central Indian forest belt, Gadgil has seen that that management in the hands of locals is most effective ensuring economic opportunity and sustainable use of natural resources while preserving sacred groves and local cultures. “We must engage local people who are most directly affected by policies if we want to develop policies that promote sustainability and balance the economics, culture and conservation,” Gadgil said in the release. “Empowering people is the key.”
Gadgil is a recipient of India’s highest civilian honours the Padma Shri in 1981 and the Padma Bhushan in 2006. He also received the Shanti Swarun Bhatnagar Award for biological sciences in 1986.