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Preservation of Eastern, Western Ghats

Topics Covered:  Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment.

Preservation of Eastern, Western Ghats

What to study?

For Prelims: Western Ghats- Key geographical and environmental facts.

For Mains: Issues related to the conservation of the region, overview of Gadil and Kasturirangan committee reports.

Context: A public interest litigation petition has been filed in the Madras High Court seeking a direction to the Centre and State government to constitute a permanent body for taking serious steps to safeguard the flora, fauna and other natural resources in the Eastern and Western Ghat areas in Tamil Nadu.

  • The petition is on the basis of the recommendations made by the Madhav Gadgil and Kasturi Rangan committees.

What’s the issue? Why there is a need for protection?

  • Petitioner contended that the natural resources abundantly available in this area are being properly utilised by other regions, except Tamil Nadu. They are being misutilised and mismanaged not only by the administrators but also by the public at large.
  • Besides, large-scale plantations of coffee, tea and orchards have been raised in the hills of Western Ghats. Aromatic and valuable trees like sandal are removed illegally. Despite the Wildlife Protection Act, hunting takes place in some pockets. The forests are getting degraded because of illicit collection of firewood, illicit grazing and illicit felling of trees.

What did the Gadgil Committee say?

  1. It defined the boundaries of the Western Ghats for the purposes of ecological management.
  2. It proposed that this entire area be designated as ecologically sensitive area (ESA).
  3. Within this area, smaller regions were to be identified as ecologically sensitive zones (ESZ) I, II or III based on their existing condition and nature of threat.
  4. It proposed to divide the area into about 2,200 grids, of which 75 per cent would fall under ESZ I or II or under already existing protected areas such as wildlife sanctuaries or natural parks.
  5. The committee proposed a Western Ghats Ecology Authority to regulate these activities in the area.

Why was Kasturirangan Committee setup?

None of the six concerned states agreed with the recommendations of the Gadgil Committee, which submitted its report in August 2011.

  • In August 2012, then Environment Minister constituted a High-Level Working Group on Western Ghats under Kasturirangan to “examine” the Gadgil Committee report in a “holistic and multidisciplinary fashion in the light of responses received” from states, central ministries and others.
  • The Kasturirangan report seeks to bring just 37% of the Western Ghats under the Ecologically Sensitive Area (ESA) zones — down from the 64% suggested by the Gadgil report.

Recommendations of Kasturirangan Committee:

  1. A ban on mining, quarrying and sand mining.
  2. No new thermal power projects, but hydro power projects allowed with restrictions.
  3. A ban on new polluting industries.
  4. Building and construction projects up to 20,000 sq m was to be allowed but townships were to be banned.
  5. Forest diversion could be allowed with extra safeguards.

Importance of western ghats:

  • The Western Ghats is an extensive region spanning over six States. It is the home of many endangered plants and animals. It is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
  • It is one of the eight “hottest hot-spots” of biological diversity in the world.
  • According to UNESCO, the Western Ghats are older than the Himalayas. They influence Indian monsoon weather patterns by intercepting the rain-laden monsoon winds that sweep in from the south-west during late summer.

Eastern Ghats:

The Eastern Ghats run from the northern Odisha through Andhra Pradesh to Tamil Nadu in the south passing some parts of Karnataka.

They are eroded and cut through by four major rivers of peninsular India, viz. Godavari, Mahanadi, Krishna, and Kaveri.

Insta Link:

Prelims Link:

  1. Geographical extension of Eastern and Western ghats, Important rivers, passes and mountain ranges, tallest peaks.
  2. Critically endangered, endangered and endemic species found in this region.
  3. ESAs vs. ESZs, who designates them?
  4. Differences between recommendations of the two committees.
  5. What is a World Heritage site? Who designates them?
  6. What are “hottest hot-spots” of biological diversity? Who designates them?

Mains Link:

Various committees have been formed to give recommendations on preservation of Western Ghats, but not a lot has happened on that front. Examine.

Sources: the Hindu.