Environment & Ecology
In News: As Kerala debates the Supreme Court order for maintaining at least a kilometre of Eco-Sensitive Zone for protected areas, the WGEEP report, popularly known as the Gadgil report, once again springs back to public discourse.
Gadgil Committee Recommendations:
- The Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel (WGEEP) designated the entire hill range as an Ecologically Sensitive Area (ESA).
- The panel, in its report, has classified the 142 taluks in the Western Ghats boundary into Ecologically Sensitive Zones (ESZ) 1, 2 and 3.
- ESZ-1 being of high priority, almost all developmental activities (mining, thermal power plants etc) were restricted in it.
- Gadgil report recommended that “no new dams based on large-scale storage be permitted in Ecologically Sensitive Zone 1
- It specifies that the present system of governance of the environment should be changed. It asked for bottom to top approach (right from Gram sabhas) rather than a top to bottom approach. It also asked for decentralization and more powers to local authorities.
- The commission recommended constitution of a Western Ghats Ecology Authority (WGEA), as a statutory authority under the Ministry of Environment and Forests, with the powers under Section 3 of the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986.
Examination of Madhav Gadgil Report
- The major criticism faced by Gagdil Committee report was that it was more environment-friendly and not in tune with the ground realities.
- Recommendations were cited as impractical to implement.
- Gadgil report has asked for complete eco-sensitive cover for Western Ghats which hamper different states on energy and development fronts.
- There was criticism against the constitution of a new body called WGEA. States insist that protection can be given under existing laws.
- Gadgil report doesn’t give solution for revenue losses due to implementation of its recommendations.
- Gadgil report is against dams in Western Ghats, which is a crucial blow on the ailing power sector. Considering the growing energy needs of India, critics argue that this recommendation cannot be taken.
Major Anthropogenic Threats to The Western Ghats
The Western Ghats of India is facing severe threats to its ecosystem. In the period between 1920 to 1990, 40 percent of its natural vegetation was depleted. This is coupled with dangers arising from encroachments. The major anthropogenic threats include:
- Large dam projects in Western Ghats have resulted in environmental and social disruption despite cost-benefit analyses and environmental impact assessments being done by the government and companies.
- The rise in human settlements has led to the over-exploitation of forest products through activities such as livestock grazing.
- Livestock grazing within and bordering protected areas by high densities of livestock (cattle and goats) is a serious problem causing habitat degradation across the Western Ghats.
- The mining establishments, especially iron-ore mining, have greatly contributed to damaging the ecological balance, by destroying farms, polluting rivers and damaging the top soil.
- Diversion of forests for agriculture, mining and industrial projects, road construction etc over the past few decades have resulted in the state of Kerala losing 9064 sq kms between 1973 and 2016 and Karnataka losing 200 sq km of forest land in the Western Ghats between 2001 and 2017.
- Given that the Western Ghats exists within an intensely human-dominated landscape, human-wildlife conflicts are a common phenomenon.
- Pollution is also playing its part, with high mercury levels in the water, and agrochemicals from tea and coffee plantations going unchecked.
- Plantations owned by private individuals and corporate sector continue to grow in the Western Ghats and constitute an important source of fragmentation of natural habitat.
- The other culprit for loss of native flora in the Western Ghats is the plantation of alien species such as Eucalyptus, Pinus by the British which can be seen across the upper slopes of the Nilgiris interspersed with Lantana Camara. They create a mat-like structure leading to degradation of the land and destruction of the native biodiversity.
Source: The Hindu
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