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The relationship between development and the environment has long been proven. Environmental resources are required for development.

As a result, resource disruption has negative consequences for the development process as a whole, as well as a violation of the holistic development goal.

Developmental Pressures on the Western Ghats:

  • The region is facing major risks from urbanisation, agricultural expansion, and livestock grazing.
  • The Western Ghats region is home to an estimated 50 million people, putting development pressures on the region that are orders of magnitude greater than many protected areas throughout the world.

Issues Concerning Biodiversity:

  • The Ghats are still being affected by forest loss, habitat fragmentation, habitat degradation by exotic plant species, encroachment, and conversion.
  • Outside of Protected Areas, fragmentation induced by development pressure in the Western Ghats is reducing the availability of wildlife corridors and suitable habitats.

Climate Change:

  • The climate catastrophe has gained traction in recent years:
  • Landslides and flash floods wreaked havoc on Konkan’s ghat districts in 2021, and cyclones are intensifying as the Arabian Sea warms, making the west coast particularly vulnerable.

Threats from Industrialization:

  • Due to the lack of a Western Ghats ESA policy, more polluting industries, quarries and mines, roads, and townships are likely to be proposed.
  • This means that the region’s vulnerable landscape will be harmed much more in the future.

Measures To Be Taken-Preventive Approach:

  • Given the effects of climate change on people’s livelihoods and the economy of the country, it is prudent to safeguard fragile ecosystems.
  • This will be less expensive than investing money/resources on restoration/rejuvenation in a disaster-prone scenario.
  • As a result, any further delay in implementation will further exacerbate the degradation of the country’s most valuable natural resource.

Including All Stakeholders in the Conversation:

  • A thorough analysis based on scientific research, followed by agreement among diverse stakeholders by resolving their concerns, is urgently necessary.

Addressing Local Residents’ Concerns:

  • According to some, the concept of establishing an environmentally sensitive area (ESA) is fundamentally hostile to people and their developmental goals.
  • The problem can be discussed in depth during public discussions, ensuring that the policy does not appear to be top-down.

State Governments’ Role:

  • The hazards of harming the ecology must be recognized by the governments, especially because India has borne the brunt of the climate problem.
  • They must accept that the climate problem is a fact and, rather than postponing decisions, implement more decisive climate-proofing measures to conserve the Western Ghats.

Local Communities Empowerment:

  • The various committees emphasized that it is the people at the grassroots level who have the expertise and are connected to the environment who should be motivated to protect the region.
  • True democratic decentralisation and the empowerment of local communities in villages and cities are the way forward.

Conclusion

There are no two ways of maintaining the Western Ghats, but there is a need to create a balance between forest preservation and indigenous people’s right to livelihood.

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