What’s in the news?
The Western Ghats panel’s suggestions stressed the need to strengthen grass-roots governance. A repeat of last year’s extreme weather events in the Western Ghats region has made the people rethink their approach to conservation.Landslides in Kerala’s Wayanad district caused havoc earlier this month.
- Older than the Himalaya mountains, the mountain chain of the Western Ghats represents geomorphic features of immense importance with unique biophysical and ecological processes.
- The site’s high montane forest ecosystems influence the Indian monsoon weather pattern. Moderating the tropical climate of the region, the site presents one of the best examples of the monsoon system on the planet.
- It also has an exceptionally high level of biological diversity and endemism and is recognized as one of the world’s eight ‘hottest hotspots’ of biological diversity.
- The forests of the site include some of the best representatives of non-equatorial tropical evergreen forests anywhere and are home to at least 325 globally threatened flora, fauna, bird, amphibian, reptile and fish species.
- The Western Ghats are internationally recognized as a region of immense global importance for the conservation of biological diversity, besides containing areas of high geological, cultural and aesthetic values.
- A chain of mountains running parallel to India’s western coast, approximately 30-50 km inland, the Ghats traverse the States of Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Goa, Maharashtra and Gujarat. These mountains cover an area of around 140,000 km² in a 1,600 km long stretch that is interrupted only by the 30 km Palghat Gap at around 11°N.
Committees on conservation of western ghats:
Madhav Gadgil Committee Report on the Western Ghats
Gadgil Commission, an environmental research commission is named after its chairman Madhav Gadgil. The commission is formally known as Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel (WGEEP). The commission submitted the report to the Government of India on 31 August 2011.
- The Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel (WGEEP) designated the entire hill range as an Ecologically Sensitive Area (ESA).
- The panel, in its report, has classified the 142 taluks in the Western Ghats boundary into Ecologically Sensitive Zones (ESZ) 1, 2 and 3.
- ESZ-1 being of high priority, almost all developmental activities (mining, thermal power plants etc) were restricted in it.
- Gadgil report recommended that “no new dams based on large-scale storage be permitted in Ecologically Sensitive Zone 1. Since both the Athirappilly of Kerala and Gundia of Karnataka hydel project sites fall in Ecologically Sensitive Zone 1, these projects should not be accorded environmental clearance,” it said.
Kasturirangan committee Report Recommendations
Instead of the total area of Western Ghats, only 37% (i.e. 60,000 sq. km.) of the total area be brought under ESA under Kasturirangan report.
- A complete ban on mining, quarrying and sand mining in ESA.
- Distinguished between cultural (58% occupied in the Western Ghats by it like human settlements, agricultural fields and plantations) and natural landscape (90% of it should come under ESA according to the committee).
- Current mining areas in the ESA should be phased out within the next five years, or at the time of expiry of mining lease, whichever is earlier.
- No thermal power be allowed and hydropower projects are allowed only after detailed study.
- The WGEEP called for a model of conservation and development compatible with each other; we sought a replacement of the prevailing ‘Develop Recklessly, Conserve Thoughtlessly’ pattern with one of ‘Develop Sustainably, Conserve Thoughtfully.’
- This finetuning of development practices to the local context would have required the full involvement of local communities.
- It would have therefore been entirely inappropriate to depend exclusively on government agencies for deciding on and managing Ecologically Sensitive Zones, and our panel certainly had no intention of imposing any development or conservation priorities on the people.
- We must take full advantage of powers and responsibilities conferred on citizens under provisions such as the 73rd and 74th Amendments to the Constitution, and the Biological Diversity Act, 2002.
- We should assert that conservation prescriptions should not be merely regulatory, but include positive incentives such as conservation service charges. We must hand over economic activities like quarrying to agencies like the Kudumbashre groups that are accountable to local communities.
- We, the sovereign people, are the real rulers of India and must engage ourselves more activel in the governance of the country an lead it on to a path of peoplefriendly and naturefriendly development.
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