|Western Ghats; Photo: keystone-foundation|
HIGH LEVEL WORKING GROUP (HLWG) ON WESTERN GHATS headed by Dr. K. Kasturirangan, on Wednesday, April 17th 2013 submitted their report to Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF), Government of India. Working Group proposes protecting 90 Per Cent of the Region’s ‘Natural Landscape’ as Ecological Sensitive Area.
The Working Group was constituted to advise the Government on the recommendations of an earlier report – that of the eminent ecologist Madhav Gadgil-led Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel (WGEEP). The WGEEP had recommended that the entire Western Ghats should be declared as an ecologically sensitive area; had suggested three levels of categorization where regulatory measures for protection would be imposed and had recommended the establishment of the Western Ghats Ecology Authority for management. In August 2012, MoEF constituted the High Level Working Group (HLWG) to examine the large numbers of public responses received to the recommendations of the Gadgil report and to suggest the way ahead.
Working Group defined the extent of Western Ghats. As per HLWG’s definition, the Western Ghats region spreads over an area of 1,64,280 square km and extends from North to South over a distance of 1500 km traversing Six States. Out of the estimated 1,64,280 square km of the Western-Ghats area, the natural landscape constitutes only 41 per cent. The area identified as ecologically sensitive is about 37 per cent i.e., about 90 % of the natural landscape.
Working Group has summarised their recommendation into thirty six key points. Because of unprecedented threats to natural landscape of Western Ghats region by development projects and urban growth, the Working Group has recommended a non-tolerance policy with respect to highly interventionist and environmentally damaging activities like mining or polluting industries and made specific recommendations about prohibited activities and those that require high level of scrutiny and assessment before clearance within ESA.
With regard to effect of climate change a number of adaptive strategies has been recommended by HLWG such as (i) species-mix plantations, (ii) planting of hardy species that are resilient to increased temperature and drought risk, and (iii) launching of a few anticipatory plantation projects.
Ms. Jayanthi Natarajan, Union Ministry of Environment and Forest’s while receiving the report assured that the recommendations would be looked into urgently so that action can be taken to address these challenges.
Indian Botanists Blog-o-Journal makes available the full report for you.
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