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13th June 2024 (13 Topics)

Protecting the Western Ghats

Context

The Centre has proposed eco-sensitive areas (ESAs) in six states, including Karnataka, Maharashtra, and Goa, to safeguard the Western Ghats. However, these states are seeking a reduction in the extent of ESAs to facilitate development projects.

Key Demand: Rationalizing ESAs

  • The states are advocating for a rationalization of ESAs, which currently cover 56,825 sq km in the Ghats.
  • They argue that reducing the ESAs would allow for essential development activities in the region.
  • State’s demands:
    • Karnataka's Opposition: Karnataka opposes the original draft based on the K Kasturirangan panel report, citing potential impacts on livelihoods.
    • Goa's Demands: Goa seeks a reduction in ESAs in specific talukas to accommodate development projects.

What are ESAs?

  • ESAs are designated areas surrounding national parks and wildlife sanctuaries aimed at preserving the ecological balance and biodiversity of sensitive regions like the Western Ghats.
  • They act as buffer zones between highly protected areas and places with less protection.
  • These areas restrict certain activities to prevent environmental degradation and maintain the natural habitat.
  • Purpose: to lessen human impact on these special places.
  • Extent: Usually within 10 km of park or sanctuary boundaries. If there are important natural pathways beyond 10 km, they might stretch further.
  • They're similar to ecotones, those transition zones between different ecosystems.
  • Notified by: They are notified by the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change, Government of India around Protected Areas, National Parks and Wildlife Sanctuaries.

Fact Box:

Categories of Activities in ESAs

  • Prohibited: Commercial Mining, Setting of Saw Mills, Setting of industries causing pollution, the establishment of major hydroelectric projects etc.
  • Regulated: Felling of Trees, Establishment of hotels and resorts, erection of electrical cables, drastic change of agricultural systems etc.
  • Permitted: Ongoing agriculture and horticulture practices by local communities, rainwater harvesting, organic farming etc.

About Western Ghats

  • The Western Ghats run along India's west coast, starting from Gujarat through Maharashtra, Goa, Karnataka, Kerala, and Tamil Nadu.
  • Covering 160,000 square kilometers, they're a massive mountain range.
  • Anamudi, in Tamil Nadu, is their highest peak.
  • Recognized for their significance, they're on the UNESCO World Heritage list.
  • Biological Diversity: Among the world's top 8 hotspots for biodiversity.
  • Role in Water Systems:
    • They act as a water source for rivers that provide water to 40% of India.
    • Rivers flowing from here are crucial for agriculture and life in the region.
  • Climate Influence:
    • Their winds influence the climate by bringing in moisture. These winds cause monsoon rains in summer
    • They are also responsible for the drying up and cooling of the peninsula in winter.

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