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Why only 37% Western Ghats ecologically sensitive?

Whole region of the Western Ghats need protection


by Ram Kumar Mishra, Mumbai(India), April 29, 2013

Last day, an environment expert panel had submitted its report to the Environment Ministry, set up by the Union Government to study the Madhav Gadgil committee report on the Western Ghats. The panel headed by the Space scientist and Planning Commission member K. Kasturirangan recommended that 37 per cent of the Western Ghats are highly sensitive zone that spread about 60,000 square kilometers across the six states (Gujarat, Maharashtra, Goa, Karnataka,Kerala and Tamil Nadu) of the country. According the committee report this area must be announced no entry zone for the commercial activities, thermal or hydro‐power plant, polluting industry and housing plans. Kasturirangan committee has her against advice from Gadgil committee. Where, the Gadgil Committee had recommended that Western Ghats should be divided into three levels, according to the eco‐sensitive zone. Each of them should have different restrictions as per requirement. Prior to this the Gadgil report said that cultivation, plantation and habitations should keep outside of the restrictive ambit‐ called Ecologically Sensitive Area (ESA) under in the environment protection Act, 1976.

K. Kasturirangan report does oppose the prior recommendations and suggests that 90% of the Western Ghats are hilly region and has complex bio‐diversity. It should be taken 37% of the whole region of the Western Ghats into ESA zone that would cover about 60,000 square kilometers areas. In this area about 4,156 villages would come across the six states. Besides this, the committee does not oppose the dam construction and hydroelectric projects with the strict conditions and regulations. The committee suggests that in the two districts of Maharashtra state Ratnagiri and Sindhudug should be completely banned on commercial activities like mining and pollution plant and in the other ESA zones regulations must be followed up strictly. It is perhaps only one point of view that this committee has stained with, that is needed to strict ecological control over the Western Ghats complex requiring changes and regulations on the agricultural practices.

Ram Kumar Mishra shows the area, taken from the Hill areas of Mumbai, where cutting the hill stones for preparing building construction sites. photos: Shiv Kumar Mishra

During this changing atmosphere around the globe, Government of India has focused on conservation of Western Ghats’ rich bio‐diversity and began to think about its destruction. Last year; the Union Government had appointed nine member environmental expert committee headed by Madhav Gadgil. When Gadgil committee submitted its report states like Maharashtra, Karnataka and Kerala had risen concerned about the committee’s recommendations. To review the Gadgil committee report once again Government had appointed K. Kasturirangan Committee.

After the report submitted to the respective ministry, many environment activists stand against it, saying that this report has been strained and makes a narrow way to escape the industrialists and do efforts to save the mining companies; involve in such commercial activities. They blame on Government to pave the way for national and international mining companies, which is utilized of the country’s natural wealth. For example the new committee gave the green signal to the Athirapally hydroelectric project in Kerala and Gundiya dam in Karnataka.

All of us; well introduced with a changing period of monsoon in Mumbai and its suburban regions with rest of the regions in India. Environment experts describe about the hills in and around the Mumbai being destroyed by builders supporting with local leaders and greedy officers. Sahyadri mountain range along the western side has thirty nine properties including parks, wildlife sanctuaries and reserve forests. This mountain range starts from the Gujarat and goes to Karnataka about 1,600 kilometer area. It is a UNESCO world heritage site, called hottest hot spot in the world. Like the Sahyadri mountain range there are two more hills Nilgiri (cover Tamil Nadu and Kerala) and Animals Hills (cover Kerala) and 32 peaks under these three hills are in Western Ghats.

Covering 160,000 square kilometers (62,000 square miles) range of Western Ghats have been announced UNESCO heritage in 2012 evaluating its eco and bio richness. Here, it can be just imagined that it has over 5000 species flowers plants and 508 species birds like many undiscovered species lives in Western Ghats.

But, now it is our moral duty to protect our bio‐diversity and an established geological system by keeping out ourselves from a mean and selfish ideology. It needs a wide awareness program to reflect merits and demerits of conservation of bio‐diversity.

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