(IGP) Special Current Affairs Material for IAS (Pre) 2013 - PIB "Topic : Western Ghats: Challenges of Sustainable Development"

(IGP) Special Current Affairs Material for IAS (Pre) 2013

Chapter: Gist of Press Information Bureau Articles

Topic: Western Ghats: Challenges of Sustainable Development

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 near Kanyakumari.

Q. Western Ghats-some facts?

  • The Western Ghats is a mountain range that runs along the western side of India.
  • 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 Parks.
  • 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 different regions.

  • 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 African nations.

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 alone.
  • 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 by 2016.

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 Ghats?

  • The World Heritage status could have implications on development in and around these sites as UNESCO prescribes creation of additional buffer zones around the natural world heritage sites and putting in place an overarching management authority for conservation of the selected 39 serial sites.

Q. What will play crucial role in determining the success of conservation of Western Ghats?

  • 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.

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