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Question – Indicate the causes of biodiversity degradation in the Western Ghats and discuss the efforts by the Central Government related to their conservation. – 14 April
The Western Ghats, which is included in the UNESCO World Heritage Site, is one of the eight hot spots of biological
diversity in the world, representing a large part of the country’s flora and fauna, and extensively affects the
climatic conditions and rainfall patterns in the peninsula.
- In the ecology of different parts of India, the Western Ghats have their own distinct identity. It is the habitat of many such plants and animals, which are not found anywhere else in the world. Although the forest area of the Northeast,the Western Ghats, Andaman and Nicobar Islands are very less in terms of area, there are about two hundred species
of flowering plants along with about a hundred types of ferns. The coral reefs spread in the sea here are very
important for biodiversity.
- In recent years, about thirty five thousand crore rupees of illegal mining was done in Goa till 2006-11, due to which many forests were ruined. Deforestation, mining, turning hills into unscientific shapes for construction of multi-storeyed buildings, single-crop agricultural cycle, etc. are the reasons for which the incidence of landslides has increased progressively. According to a study by ISRO, 35% of the area of the Western Ghats has been destroyed in the period 1920-2013. Due to illegal and unscientific activities, there is a possibility of increasing drought, famine, water scarcity and yield reduction in this area. The water of most of the rivers flowing through this region has been contaminated, and adversely affecting about a quarter of the country’s population.
- Biodiversity plays a major role in the creation of nature and its survival. However, if there is erosion in it, thendeadlock in the environmental cycle affects the organisms. Presently, due to being conscious of biodiversity,biodiversity is losing out at a rapid pace. There are about two million biological species existing on this earth and each organism has importance in the ecosystem.
- Our country has about 12% of the world’s biodiversity. According to a report of the Public Accounts Committee, the Ministry of Environment and Forests has failed to conserve biodiversity despite the identification of forty five thousand plants and twenty-one thousand species of animals.
- One of the major reasons for India being a prosperous nation in terms of biodiversity is that both agriculture and animal husbandry are of great importance in the country. But unfortunately this diversity is now ending very fast.
- The Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel constituted in 2010 under the chairmanship of Madhav Gadgil for conservation of the biodiversity of the Western Ghats gave the entire area the status of an eco-sensitive area. Later, a “Kasturirangan Committee” was also formed to consider the report of this panel. Beginning from the border of Gujarat and Maharashtra in India, the sixteen hundred kilometers long stretch from Goa, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala to Kanyakumari is called the Western Ghats mountain range. Forests here also influence the Indian monsoon.
- The Kasturirangan Committee, in its April 2013 report, had changed several of the recommendations of the Gadgil Committee. The Gadgil Committee had declared the Western Ghats completely sensitive to ecology, and favored limited mining. There was not much difference in the reports of the two committees.
- The Kasturirangan committee marked 37% of the Western Ghats, or about sixty thousand hectares, in the eco-sensitive zone, while the Gadgil committee marked less than one lakh thirty-seven thousand hectares. But the Forest Ministry says that there are already a lot of restrictions in the Western Ghats. In such a situation, if more restrictions are imposed as per the Kasturirangan committee report, then it will prove detrimental to the development of the Western Ghats region. Thousands of people from hundreds of villages will not only lose their habitat, but will also face employment crisis.
- On the report of the Kasturirangan Committee, there is a great indignation among the local people and there remains indifference towards biodiversity till date because of its strong opposition to its implementation. But people have to be aware, because for some vested interests, protection of biodiversity cannot be compromised.
- If we seek the cooperation of the residents there in security, then two benefits will be immediately revealed. One, it will be possible to protect biodiversity and second, those who oppose it, they will take the responsibility of protecting it by becoming its helpers. It is well known that no one can know about the geographical conditions better than the inhabitants. Erosion is mostly caused by human actions.
- Some scientists estimate that between 4,000 and 17,000 species per year are dying out. This type of loss is harmful not only for India but also for the whole world. These species are under threat due to deforestation and its aphrodisiac properties in their fur and meat and poaching. The policy makers and the governments of all the six states associated with the Western Ghats should come forward to save the ancient ecosystem from extinction with solidarity and public participation. Now it has become very important to protect it by knowing its proper form. For this, we will have to reconcile between our needs and available resources.