The mountain chain of the Western Ghats is spread across 1,29,037 km². It is older than the Himalayas and represents geomorphic features of great importance with unique biophysical and ecological processes. Its montane forest ecosystems influence the monsoon weather patterns of India. Many important rivers originate from the Western Ghats. It is home to diverse flora and fauna, a large number of which are unique. Even now, certain hitherto unknown species of frogs and reptiles keep surfacing. Besides these, it is rich in mineral resources, including the much sought-after iron ore, basalt and bauxite.
This pristine mountain range shelters as many as 25 crore people. The level of environmental degradation due to reckless exploitation of natural resources has increased manifold. Though these mountain ranges are the umbilical connection to our water regimes, neither the state governments nor the central government did ever bother to enact regulations to protect the area. A few politicians along with some religious groups and individuals with vested interests are hijacking the region’s future and gravely endangering its brittle ecology.
The money, time and effort spent on various studies and reports to safeguard the hill ranges have gone in vain. The reports of Western Ghats Expert Environment Panel constituted by the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) in 2010 under the chairmanship of renowned environmentalist Prof. Madhav Gadgil and the High Level working Group (HLWG) under the chairmanship of space scientist and planning
commission member Dr. Kasturirangan in 2012 have been usurped by vested interests.
After assessing the status of 241 natural world heritage sites, the recently published IUCN World Heritage Outlook 2 report puts Western Ghats in the second highest risk category. The report noted that millions of people living in this region cause greater pressures than many other protected areas around the world. Grazing, massive pilgrimage, tourism and mining are the major threats.
Forest Watch, through our volunteer base, is striving to document, create awareness and to fight for the protection of these mountain ranges in whatever little way possible. We request you all to join us in this battle.
Dr. P U Antony
Director, Forest Watch No. 337,
Edavaka P.O, Ayilamoola