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Insights into Editorial: Declare Eastern Ghats UNESCO cultural heritage sites, say environmental groups




All the historically and culturally significant mountains of the Eastern Ghats should be declared UNESCO cultural heritage sites.

The five States that the Ghats encompass – Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Karnataka and Odisha should prepare an action plan to protect and conserve their ecology and natural resources, the Greens’ Alliance for Conservation of Eastern Ghats (GRACE) and the Council for Green Revolution (CGR) have said.

About Eastern Ghats:

  1. The Eastern Ghats run parallel to the eastern coastal plains of India. Unlike the Western Ghats, they are discontinuous in nature and is dissected by the rivers that drain into the Bay of Bengal.
  2. As discussed above, most of these rivers have their origin in the Western Ghats. It must be noted that the Eastern Ghats are lower in elevation than the western Ghats. The highest peak of Eastern Ghats is the Jindhagada Peak.
  3. The difference in the elevation levels of the highest peaks in both the ghats can also be compared.
  4. Anaimudi which is the highest peak of the western Ghats has a height of 2695 mts whereas Jindhagada Peak of eastern Ghats is of 1690 mts.
  5. This gives us a fair idea of the differences in elevation levels of the hills in both the Ghats.
  6. The main crop produced in the Eastern Ghats is the Rice, which is also the staple food of the people living in the region.
  7. The Eastern Ghats reappear as more or less a continuous hill range in Cuddapah and Kurnool districts of Andhra Pradesh where they are called as Nallamalai Range [Naxalite hideout in AP] with general elevation of 600-850 m.
  8. The southern part of this range is called the Palkonda range.

Report titled ‘Eastern Ghats – Environment Outlook’:

  1. The Greens’ Alliance for Conservation of Eastern Ghats (GRACE) and the Council for Green Revolution (CGR) have demanded that the Central government form a Regional Coordination Committee of States on Eastern Ghats with a mandate for linking and coordinating activities relating to the Ghats.
  2. It should have sought the appointment of a Nature Ombudsman for the Eastern Ghats and the publication of an Environmental Atlas of the Eastern Ghats, incorporating various ecological, social, cultural and heritage information, among others.
  3. These were all laid out in a report titled ‘Eastern Ghats – Environment Outlook’.
  4. The report said the degradation of the Eastern Ghats, which began a century ago, had accelerated since the 1970s, and the ecosystem of the hills had lost their natural species composition, forest structure, size, scale and character.
  5. According to the report, the situation was grave due to the threats and challenges to floral and faunal elements, and the bio-geographic significance of the Eastern Ghats was declining fast.
  6. The time has come for all the local governments to ensure that the conservation of the Eastern Ghats and the regeneration of all its biodiversity are top priority, the report said.
  7. The region hosts wildlife sanctuaries, biosphere reserves and Ramsar convention sites. However, a large part of the Eastern Ghats wilderness is yet to be covered under the conservation umbrella.

Session for MPs to need to protect the Eastern Ghats:

It is incumbent on the five States to make efforts to protect the fragile ecosystem that is home to nearly 5 million tribal people belonging to nearly 60 indigenous communities.

A session for Members of Parliament from the five States is being planned to educate them about the gravity of the situation and the need to protect the Ghats, so that they can make efforts to bring in policy measures to ensure that the fragile ecosystem is protected.

The tribes of the Eastern Ghats are stifled in conflicting interests between governments, corporate and neighbouring lowland societies and militants.

Their lands have become sites for clandestine dumping of toxic waste, illegal mining, poaching and hunting, including human trafficking.

Climate change, land-use change may enhance plant species loss in the Eastern Ghats:

Climate and land use change are likely to alter plant species richness in the Eastern Ghats in the future, scientists have said, pressing for urgent conservation attention on the region that has lost 16 percent of forest cover in a span of 100 years.

While 40 percent of the Eastern Ghats is in Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Odisha share 25 percent each, and Karnataka and Telangana share 5 percent each.

Conservation and Protection of Eastern Ghats Landscape:

  1. Water-energy dynamics broadly regulates plant richness in the Eastern Ghats, with average annual rainfall and temperature having a considerable impact on plants.
  2. “Plants need optimum supply of water and conducive temperature ranges to thrive and the disruption in this balance due to global warming can put species at risk,” said Centre for Oceans, Rivers, Atmosphere and Land Sciences at Indian Institute of Technology Kharagpur.
  3. The study finds herb species (771 herb species followed by 451 tree species) dominating in the Eastern Ghats landscape, suggesting how climate and human actions are changing the course of plant species richness.
  4. The seasonal dryness and moderate to low rainfall favour their (herbs) growth.
  5. Additionally, because of the dense population and anthropogenic disturbance, the number of tree species has reduced.

Difference between Eastern Ghats and Western Ghats:

  1. Direction: Western Ghats runs parallel to the western coast in a north-south direction from the Tapi River to Kanayakumari. But Eastern Ghats runs in a north-east to south-west direction parallel to the eastern coast from Orissa to the Nilgiri hills.
  2. Width: Western Ghat’s average width is 50 to 80 km. But Eastern Ghat’s width varying from 100 to 200 km.
  3. Source of rivers: Western Ghats is source of many large rivers which flow in the Peninsular India. But no big river originates from the Eastern Ghats.
  4. Rainfall: Western Ghats is almost perpendicular to the south-west monsoons coming from the Arabian Sea and causes heavy rainfall in the west coastal plain. But Eastern Ghats is almost parallel to the monsoons coming from the Bay of Bengal and does not cause much rainfall.
  5. Physical divisions: Western Ghats continuous and can be crossed through passes only. But Eastern Ghats has been divided into several parts by large rivers.
  6. Elevation: Western Ghats average elevation is 900 to 1,100 meters above sea-level. But the average elevation of Eastern Ghats is about 600 metres above sea level.


Conservation action and protection is mostly focused on hotspots such as the Himalayas and the Western Ghats.

But we are losing species that are not included in the hotspots, said IIT Kharagpur scientists, referring to the 1600-km stretch of rich, biodiverse forests on discontinuous hills lying parallel to the Bay of Bengal.

The biological integrity of the Eastern Ghats had to be protected on a war-footing, and a Marshall Plan was needed for the revival of its natural glory and green cover and for ensuring that wildlife was free from the fear of extinction.