(IGP) Special Current Affairs Material for IAS (Pre) 2013
Chapter: Gist of Press Information
Topic: Western Ghats: Challenges of
Q. Western Ghats?
The Western Ghats which begin at the Dangs in Gujarat run
through the western parts of Maharashtra, the tiny state of Goa, the Malnad
region of Karnataka and the highlands of Kerala and Tamil Nadu, before ending
Q. Western Ghats-some facts?
- The Western Ghats is a mountain range that runs along the western side
- It runs, about 1600 kms North to South, along the western edge of the
Deccan Plateau. It is one of the eight hottest hotspots of biological
diversity in the world.
It originates near the border of Gujarat and Maharashtra,
and runs through the states of Maharashtra, Goa, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and
Kerala, finally ending at Kanyakumari. These hills cover a total area of
160,000 square kms.
- The average elevation is about 1,200 m (3,900 ft).
The region is home to over 5000 species of flowering
plants, 139 mammal species, 508 bird species and 179 amphibian species. It
is also reported that the Western Ghats is home to at least 84 amphibian
species, 16 bird species, seven mammals, and 1,600 flowering plants which
are not found elsewhere in the world.
- There are numerous protected areas designated by the Government of India
in the Western Ghats. They include two bio reserves and thirteen National
- The Nilagiri Biosphere Reserve that comprises 5500 square kms of
evergreen and deciduous forests forms an important part of the Western Ghats.
- The Silent Valley National Park in Kerala, which forms part of the
Western Ghats, is one among the last tracts of virgin tropical evergreen
forest in India.
In August, 2011, the Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel (WGEEP)
designated the entire Western Ghats as an Ecologically Sensitive Area (ESA).
The panel also assigned three levels of ecological sensitivity to its
- In 2012, thirty nine places in the Western Ghats region have been
declared as World Heritage Sites by the UNESCO.
Q. Western Ghats and world heritage site?
UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee has inscribed the Western
Ghats of India as a world heritage site. Kerala leads with 20 sites being
inscribed in the heritage list followed by Karnataka with ten, Tamil Nadu five
and Maharashtra four.
The world heritage tag for the Western Ghats has come after
many glitches. The proposal for including 39 sites in the Western Ghats as world
heritage was rejected by the World Heritage Committee earlier. When the proposal
for it was re-submitted for consideration, it was once again on the verge of
getting rejected. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)
suggested that India should review and refine the proposal to redefine the
boundaries of the proposed sites to maintain the contiguity of the forests.
The Indian delegation in St Petersburg, however, managed to
convince the world heritage committee and intense lobbying paid off, as the
Russian delegation moved a proposal which was backed by several Asian and
Q. Why Western Ghats are considered very important?
- Older than the Himalayas, the Western Ghats are the treasure trove of
bio-diversity. In fact they are recognized as one of the 8 global hot-spots
harbouring a wealth of flora, fauna.
- The Ghats are currently known to have more than 5,000 plant and 140
mammal species, 16 of which are endemic, i.e. species found in that area
- Notably among these being the lion-tailed macaque and the Nilgiri tahr.
Out of 179 species of amphibians found in the Western Ghats, 138 are endemic
to the region.
It has 508 bird species, 16 of which are endemic,
including the Nilgiri flycatcher and the Malabar parakeet. The Western Ghats
are considered ecologically sensitive region with nearly 52 species moving
one step closer to extinction.
- Habitat change, over-exploitation, pollution and climate change are the
principle pressures causing bio-diversity loss. The need to protect the
ecology of the Western Ghats can hardly be over-emphasized.
Q. Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel?
The Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel was constituted by the
Ministry of Environment & Forests in February 2010 under the chairmanship of
noted environmental expert Prof. Madhav Gadgil. The panel has identified several
eco-sensitive zones in the region and recommended that they should be declared
no-go areas. Among its recommendations, the panel has also called for scrapping
of Karnataka’s Gundia and Kerala’s Athirapally hydro-projects, and gradual
phasing out of mining activities in ecologically highly-sensitive areas of Goa
It has also suggested setting up of a Western Ghats Ecology
Authority (WGEA), as a statutory authority appointed by the Ministry of
Environment and Forests, with the powers under Section 3 of the Environment
(Protection) Act, 1986.
Q. What would be the impact of UNESCO World Heritage Site status to Western
Q. What will play crucial role in determining the success of conservation of
- The participation of locals is going to be crucial in determining the
success of conservation efforts and promising sustainable development.
All along the Western Ghats in five states, there are
lakhs of tribal people who have made their homes in the ghats. The Thodas of
Nilgiris, Soligas of BR Hills, Malekudiyas of Belthangady, Halakki Vokkals
of Uttara Kannada, the Sidhis of Kumta, Paniyas of Waynad, Kattunayakans of
Malabar and many others in Goa and Maharashtra are some of them.
The Perspective Plan for Protection of Biodiversity
2001-16 states that “tribal communities are part of the biodiversity and the
state governments should not take them out of their natural surroundings,
but empower them democratically and let the government facilities go to
them.”The ground situation for people’s participation in development is
conducive in most parts of the Western Ghats.