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Madhav Gadgil says things are getting worse in Western Ghats

Madhav Gadgil says things are getting worse in Western Ghats


  • GS 3 || Environment || Governance: International || Environmental Reports & Indices

Why in news?

Gadgil and the report prepared by the Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel (WGEEP) headed by him are back in news after over two dozen people lost their lives in landslides and flash floods occurred in the past in the hilly regions of Western Ghats in central Kerala districts of Kottayam and Idukki.

Gadgil Report:

  • Things are getting worse in Western Ghats”, says eminent ecologist Madhav Gadgil as he urged the people on the “grassroots” to “sufficiently pressure” the elected representatives to take measures to end disasters in areas along its traverse including Kerala.
  • The report, popularly known as Gadgil committee report submitted to the Union Environment Ministry in 2011, suggested steps to preserve the ecologically frail Ghats, a treasure trove of wildlife containing more than 30 per cent of all species of plant, fish, reptile, amphibian, bird and mammal found in the whole country.
  • Gadgil, while blaming the ecologically damaging activities like stone quarrying for disasters happening in Western Ghats, dismissed the suggestion that the time is over for implementing the report to protect the hills.
  • “That is of course a completely nonsensical statement because things are getting worse there. No question of time is over for implementing this,” he said, responding to a query.

What does the report talk about?

  • The Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel (WGEEP) was appointed by Jairam Ramesh in February 2010 during his tenure as the Union Environment Minister in the Congress-led UPA to draw up a roadmap for preserving the biodiversity of the ecologically sensitive hills.
  • 73rd and 74th amendments: According to Gadgil, the WGEEP report should be implemented with the complete participation of the people and the 73rd and 74th amendments to the Constitution mandate people’s participation in decision making.
  • Constitutional democratic rights: The way forward is to actually implement (the WGEEP report) through proper democratic process. The way forward is that the communities living in Western Ghats should assert their constitutional democratic rights.
  • Ecologically Sensitive Areas: The panel had classified the Western Ghats into Ecologically Sensitive Areas (ESA) 1, 2 and 3 of which ESA-1 is high priority, almost all developmental activities (mining, thermal power plants etc) were restricted in it.
  • Governance of the environment: It specified that the system of governance of the environment should be a bottom to top approach (right from Gram sabhas) rather than a top to bottom approach.
  • Western Ghats Ecology Authority (WGEA): It also recommended the 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.

Eco-Sensitive Areas:

  • Eco-Sensitive Areas (ESAs) are located within 10 kms around Protected Areas, National Parks and Wildlife Sanctuaries.
  • ESAs are notified by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) under Environment Protection Act 1986.
  • The basic aim is to regulate certain activities around National Parks and Wildlife Sanctuaries so as to minimise the negative impacts of such activities on the fragile ecosystem encompassing the protected areas.

Know About Western Ghats:

  • Formation: The Western Ghats have been formed by the subduction of the Arabian basin and tilting of the peninsula in east and northeast during Himalayan uplift.
  • Thus, it wears the look of Block Mountains in the west and the slope appears to be escarpments and stairway formation.

  • Eight hotspots: The Western Ghats is one of the eight hotspots of biological diversity in the world and is spread across six states—Gujarat, Maharashtra, Goa, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala.
  • World Heritage site: It is a UNESCO World Heritage site. It is one of the eight “hottest hot-spots” of biological diversity in the world.
  • Time period: 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.
  • It stretches from Tapi valley to Kanyakumari.
    • It is called Sahyadri till 11° N.
  • It has three sections:
    • Northern Western Ghats
    • Middle Sahyadri(Central Western Ghats)
    • Southern Western Ghats

  • The Western Ghats are a continuous range of mountains.
  • There are different kinds of forest found in Western Ghats like Evergreen Forest, Moist Deciduous, Scrub Jungles, Sholas.
  • Anamudi is the highest peak in the Western Ghats.

Importance of Western Ghats:

  • Functions of the water: The Western Ghats serve as a vital watershed and hydrological system. It feeds a significant number of perennial rivers in peninsular India, notably the Godavari, Krishna, and Kaveri, which flow eastward. Peninsular Indian states that rely on rivers that originate in the Western Ghats for the majority of their water supply
  • Climate:
  1. Monsoon’s role: The Indian monsoon weather patterns, which mediate the region’s mild tropical temperature, are influenced by the Western Ghats’ mountains and their unique montane forest ecosystems. During late summer, the Ghats operate as a significant barrier, intercepting rain-laden monsoon winds blowing from the south-west.
  2. Changes in the climate: The forests of the Western Ghats serve a big and vital ecological role in atmospheric CO2 sequestration, and so play a considerable impact in climate change. Every year, they are projected to neutralise over 4 million tonnes of carbon, accounting for almost 10% of total emissions neutralised by Indian forests.
  3. Biodiversity: The Western Ghats, as well as their geographical expansion into Sri Lanka’s wet zone, are today regarded as one of the eight “hottest hot spots” of biodiversity. Plant and animal diversity and endemicity are outstanding in the Western Ghats. For example, 52 percent of tree species and 65 percent of amphibians found in the western Ghats are endemic. The Western Ghats are home to at least 325 globally threatened (IUCN Red Data List) species.
  • Economic significance:
  1. Parts of the Western Ghats’ ranges are rich in iron, manganese, and bauxite ores.
  2. Pepper and cardamom, which are native to the Western Ghats’ evergreen forests, have been widely planted as plantation crops. Tea, coffee, oil palm, and rubber are among the other large-scale plantations.
  3. The forests of the Western Ghats provide a significant amount of timber and sustain a variety of forest-based industries like paper, plywood, poly-fibres, and matchwood.
  4. Forest-based people in the western Ghats have relied on the forest for livelihood through collecting non-timber forest products (NTFP)
  5. The Western Ghats include a slew of tourist destinations, including Ooty, Thekaddy WS, and others. There have been notable pilgrimage centres in the region, with Sabarimalai in Kerala, Madeveshwaramalai in Karnataka, and Mahabaleshwar in Maharashtra being the most prominent.

Protected Areas:

  • Biosphere reserves: Western Ghats is home to India’s two biosphere reserves, 13 National parks, several wildlife sanctuaries and many Reserve Forests.
  • The Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve comprising 5500 km² of the evergreen forests of Nagarahole, deciduous forests of Bandipur National Park and Nugu in Karnataka and adjoining regions of Wayanad and Mudumalai National Park in the states of Kerala and Tamil Nadu forms the largest contiguous protected area in the Western Ghats.
  • The Silent Valley National Park in Kerala is among the last tracts of virgin tropical evergreen forest in India.

Way Forward:

  • There is an urgent need to examine the mechanisms by which land use change affects biodiversity, which in turn will improve our understanding of how human-modified landscapes need to be managed in order to sustain and improve their biodiversity conservation value.
  • There is a need for better understanding of the role of biodiversity in ecosystem functions and related ecosystem services. This would also help in eliciting greater civil society support and enhanced political will to conserve the Western Ghats.

Additional info:

  • The Kasturirangan panel submitted its report to the Environment Ministry reducing the area to be protected ecologically in Western Ghats to only 37%. Slamming the Kasturirangan panel report, Gadgil alleged that it advocated sabotage of democratic process, which is the essence of his WGEEP report.
  • There is strongly objection to people saying the Kasturirangan report was a dilution (WGEEP). It was a perversion because the report prepared by Kasturirangan (panel) has specifically said that the local communities have no role in decision making. This is against our Constitution.

Mains oriented question:

Climate change is impacting the nature and causing severe damage to environment and ecological imbalance in context western ghat present issues write the impact in detail. (200 words)