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Team at BVIEER.................................................................................................................... iv
Acknowledgements ................................................................................................................. v
Disclaimer ............................................................................................................................. vi
Terms of Reference................................................................................................................ vii
Framework........................................................................................................................... viii
CHAPTER 1: INTRODUCTION.......................................................................... 1
CURRENT THREATS TO THE WESTERN GHATS ....................................... 2
DEFINING ESAs .............................................................................................. 4
GENESIS OF ESAs IN INDIA.......................................................................... 5
WESTERN GHATS.............................................................................................. 7
LANDSCAPE ELEMENTS OF THE WESTERN GHATS ............................... 7
Geomorphology and Hydrology........................................................................................... 8
Climate ............................................................................................................................. 10
ECOSYSTEM DIVERSITY............................................................................. 10
Forest Types ...................................................................................................................... 11
Grasslands......................................................................................................................... 17
Streams and Rivers ............................................................................................................ 17
Plateaus............................................................................................................................. 18
SPECIES DIVERSITY..................................................................................... 18
Flora ................................................................................................................................. 24
Fauna................................................................................................................................ 26
PROTECTED AREAS..................................................................................... 35
CHAPTER 3: IMPACTS..................................................................................... 43
INDUSTRY..................................................................................................... 43
MINING.......................................................................................................... 45
ROADS............................................................................................................ 45
AGRICULTURE ............................................................................................. 48
NEW TOWNSHIPS......................................................................................... 50
TOURISM....................................................................................................... 50
INVASIVE EXOTIC SPECIES......................................................................... 51
CLIMATE CHANGE ...................................................................................... 52
OTHERS.......................................................................................................... 54
CONCLUSION................................................................................................ 54
CHAPTER 4: PLANNING OF ESAS ................................................................. 59
EXISTING ESAS............................................................................................. 59
Protected Areas ................................................................................................................. 60
ESAs around Protected Areas ............................................................................................ 62
Hill-station ESAs ............................................................................................................... 63
CATEGORIZATION OF PROPOSED ESAS .................................................. 64
Areas Planned but not Notified as PAs ............................................................................... 64
Reserve Forest and Closed Canopy Forest........................................................................... 65
Water Bodies ..................................................................................................................... 66
Sacred Groves.................................................................................................................... 68
Specialised Ecosystems ...................................................................................................... 72
Species Based ESAs ........................................................................................................... 78
CHAPTER 5: PRIORITIZATION....................................................................... 85
IDENTIFYING BIODIVERSITY ASSET VALUES......................................... 88
Protected Areas ................................................................................................................. 88
Protected Area Surrounds ................................................................................................ 90
Hill Stations ..................................................................................................................... 91
Reserve and Closed Canopy Forest..................................................................................... 91
Water Bodies ..................................................................................................................... 91
Specialized Habitats........................................................................................................... 93
Habitats of Threatened Species .......................................................................................... 95
Corridors........................................................................................................................... 96
IDENTIFYING THREAT VALUES ................................................................ 99
Mines ................................................................................................................................ 99
Industrial Areas ................................................................................................................ 99
Catchment Area Threats .................................................................................................... 99
Protected Areas Surrounds (ESA) Threats .......................................................................... 99
GRADING THE ESAs .................................................................................... 99
BASED ON ESA CATEGORY AND THREAT LEVEL ................................ 103
Sector 1 ............................................................................................................................103
Sector 2 ............................................................................................................................104
Sector 3 ............................................................................................................................105
Sector 4 ............................................................................................................................106
Sector 5 ............................................................................................................................107
Sector 6 ............................................................................................................................109
Sector 7 ............................................................................................................................110
PLANNING FOR CORRIDORS................................................................... 111
The Need for Corridors.....................................................................................................111
Landuse Within Existing Corridors ...................................................................................111
Types of Corridors............................................................................................................112
Establishing Corridors in the Northern Western Ghats.......................................................112
Potential Corridors within the Northern Western Ghats.....................................................113
CONCLUSION.............................................................................................. 116
CHAPTER 6: IMPLEMENTATION AND MANAGEMENT........................... 119
SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT................................................................ 123
ECORESTORATION.................................................................................... 125
ECOTOURISM............................................................................................. 127
IMPLEMENTATION OF CORRIDORS ....................................................... 127
NEED FOR EDUCATION AND AWARENESS ........................................... 127
CHAPTER 7: JUDICIAL CONCERNS ............................................................ 129
ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION ACT, 1986 ........................................... 129
WILDLIFE PROTECTION ACT, AMENDED 1993 .................................... 130
WILDLIFE PROTECTION ACT, AMENDMENT 2002 ............................... 134
INDIAN FOREST ACT 1927 ........................................................................ 135
FOREST CONSERVATION ACT, 2003 ........................................................ 140
BIOLOGICAL DIVERSITY ACT, 2002......................................................... 142
CATCHMENTS............................................................................................. 149
CHAPTER 8: CONCLUSION .......................................................................... 153
CHAPTER 9: REFERENCES........................................................................... 155
Erach Bharucha
Shamita Kumar
Parag Khatawkar
Anand Shinde
Kranti Yardi
Jyoti Prabha
Karishma Mehta
Ganesh Zende
Anwesha Borethakur
Prajakta Chiplunkar
Rashi Khare
Vidya Pujari
his discussion paper on the Current Ecological Status and Identification of Potential Ecologi-
cally Sensitive Areas in the Northern Western Ghats is an output supported by a large number of
stakeholders. They are all concerned about the conservation of natural resources and biological
heritage in this globally recognized hotspot of biodiversity. They have readily contributed towards efforts
to give a broad based assessment for developing a framework for a doable conservation strategy for the
Sahyadris. Having said that, this is not a final statement, but a basis for further discussions and additional
inputs from an even wider range of people.
While there are too many people to acknowledge, individually there are some who have led to a
clearer understanding of what this initiative should lead to in the future. To Professor Madhav Gadgil
who thought it fit for me and my colleagues at BVIEER to attempt framing this report, we are indeed
profoundly grateful. My ever ready team of collaborators at BVIEER who have all worked ceaselessly
late into the night for the last five months, I am greatly indebted. They are the backbone of our institution
and have fulfilled a wide range of tasks that were essential for the completion of this output.
We at BVIEER acknowledge with gratitude the vast array of scientists who have added information
bit by bit to the complex web of life of the Sahyadris that is the core of this report. The report is based
mainly on the multitude of secondary resources that have been forwarded to us. We thank them all for
their support. We greatly appreciate the inputs of Parag Khatawkar in the initial phase of the project that
has helped us frame the methodology.
We would like to mention the contributions of IIRS and P S Ray on whose initial GIS based platform
we have been able to build this locale specific output. The many individual contributors that gave us their
time and ideas include Ashok Captain, Varad Giri, Aparna Watve, Archana Godbole, Neelesh Daha-
nukar, Ankur Parwardhan and A Padhye among others all of whom are responsible for adding to its
authenticity through their long personal association with the Ghats.
There are institutions that also readily supported this output. They include the BNHS, SACON, GSDA
of CDAC, the French Institute Pondicherry, ZSI and BSI. We thank all of them for their unstinting sup-
I personally am indebted to the people of the Sahyadris who have over the last several decades told
me of their close linkages to nature and the consequences of what we call development. Much of what
they experienced in previous decades has been prophetic. As I see the superb wilderness of the rugged
hills invaded by the hand of man, and its astonishing complex sensitive ecosystems vanish year by year, I
can recall as if it was yesterday, many of the statements of so many local inhabitants who readily spoke
to me, invited me into their homes and shared their life stories and livelihood issues with me. How can
I thank them adequately for having enriched my own life, while they eked out an existence based on the
meagre resources that they used sustainably from the forested hills, valleys and water sources.
E. K. Bharucha
Pune, October 2010
his report is a document based on the letter to the Director of BVIEER from Professor Madhav
Gadgil, Chairperson of the Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel and their personal discussion
on 15th June 2010. This has led to the formation of a small core group at the BVIEER to act as
a think-tank and data collection centre to formulate a fairly comprehensive and innovative document for
comments at a proposed meeting of local experts and interested people to be held at BVIEER once the
Draft has been put on the website.
This Report is a baseline draft of views expressed by a variety of people who are concerned about the
future and present sustainability of landuse in the northern Western Ghats. They are not necessarily
the views of the author alone but attempt to capture several other viewpoints. To start with this has been
based on existing published work, includes views mentioned in reports and committee meetings of the
MOEF, and even unpublished dissertations of students that have been verified by expert guides for their
masters and doctoral studies in environmental botanical and zoological studies. While most such litera-
ture has been referred to in this report, other unpublished readings have been used to bring in a wider
range of thought without actually referring to the aspects dealt with in grey written material and personal
This report is a compendium of a vast number of independent studies, reports and findings of a num-
ber of researchers, many of whom may have conducted credible research and have reported their findings
thereof. These findings may be valid with the basis and assumptions that have been taken into consider-
ation by those researchers who have conducted their studies and at the time they were conducted. The
authors of this report take no responsibility on the accuracy of the findings nor can they be held respon-
sible or accountable for the conclusions thereof, especially under current and/or new assumptions. Even
though best efforts have been made to collect, collate and present this independent report, the authors
by no means can opine that this report is complete and accurate in the representation due to the large
amount of data/findings and sometimes which may not be material, relevant and may be conflicting.
The report, thus, should be regarded at best an endeavor towards a compendium of work done by
many others in the field. The authors are thus not responsibe for the veracity and validity of the findings
and resultant conclusions presented in the report.
The report is meant to provide a framework around which certain initiatives could be taken to protect
the Western Ghats. There could be many other such frameworks and initiatives which could be taken
based on further primary and secondary research. The proposed framework and comments are neither
tested nor verified.
Readers of this report are encouraged to form their own conclusions and opinions and are requested
to post them on the website: A number of questions have arisen during the
course of developing this output for which a systematic, scientifically organized study needs to be con-
ducted to put forth conclusions based on verifiable credences.
Errors and omissions are bound to exist in such a report as it is a compendium and not an independent
research on scientific principles. Readers are earnestly requested to provide feedback to the author in this
We hope that this compendium acts as a consolidated pool of knowledge and data for all interested
people who have a deep interest to conserve and implement a substantial strategy for one of the worlds
rarest and most biologically diverse ecological systems. If this knowledge/database can help create a
multitude of options on the principle of collective wisdom and debate, the purpose will have been served.
This report is just meant to create such a dialogue and is not to be regarded as a complete and validated
Agarkar Road, Pune 411 004, Maharashtra, India
Dr. Erach Bharucha
Bharati Vidyapeeth Institute of Environment Education and Research, Pune
Dear Dr. Bharucha,
Sub: Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel request on behalf of
Thank you so much for your most kind offer of help in taking forward the work programme of Western
Ghats of Dangs and Maharashtra, when we personally met at BVIEER on 15th June. The mandate of
WGEEP is as follows:
To assess the current status of ecology of the Western Ghats region.
To demarcate areas within the Western Ghats Region which need to be notified as ecologically sensi-
tive and to recommend for notification of such areas as ecologically sensitive zones under the Environ-
ment (Protection) Act, 1986. In doing so, the Panel shall review the existing reports such as the Mohan
Ram Committee Report, Honble Supreme Courts decisions, Recommendations of the National Board
for Wildlife and consult all concerned State Governments.
To make recommendations for the conservation, protection and rejuvenation of the Western Ghats
Region following a comprehensive consultation process involving people and Governments of all the
concerned States.
To suggest measures for effective implementation of the notifications issued by the Government of
India in the Ministry of Environment and Forests declaring specific areas in the Western Ghats Region
as eco-sensitive zones under the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986.
To recommend the modalities for the establishment of Western Ghats Ecology Authority under the
Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 which will be a professional body to manage the ecology of the re-
gion and to ensure its sustainable development with the support of all concerned states.
To deal with any other relevant environment and ecological issues pertaining to Western Ghats Re-
gion, including those which may be referred to it by the Central Government in the Ministry of Environ-
ment and Forests.
We would therefore like to request you to draw on BVIEERs own extensive work on the of Western
Ghats of Dangs and Maharashtra, as also review other available material and prepare a background pa-
per, if possible in both English and Marathi, addressing our mandate by early August 2010. This could
be uploaded on the WGEEP website as well as circulated through other media, followed by an open dis-
cussion meeting in BVIEER auditorium around the third week of August. I also greatly appreciate the
fact that you do not require any specific funding to render this important service to WGEEP.
With personal regards,
Yours sincerely
Madhav Gadgil
Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel
The introduction provides a brief account of the status and concerns leading up to the need for setting
up a mechanism to reduce threats to the biological diversity in the northern Western Ghats.
The body of the report has sections on:
1. Present ecological status of the Northern Western Ghats
2. Conceptual categorization and prioritization of ESAs in the Western Ghats
3. Implementation and executive actions required for supporting the integral ecological values of the
4. A review of existing legislative and judicial instruments that can strengthen local execution
5. A bibliography of published and unpublished literature on the subject
Some questions that the report addresses include:
1. Can ecosensitive areas be identified in the Northern Western Ghats?
2. Are there significant differences in the level of fragility or robustness?
3. Are there hotspecks of high diversity or mini-ecosystems within the globally recognized hot spot
of the Northern Western Ghats?
4. Are there areas of great importance outside PAs and PA surrounds (ESAs) that require urgent
protection from rising threat levels?
5. Can a conceptual framework be created for a system of corridors as a major component of ESAs
be evolved in the northern sector of the Western Ghats?
6. How can ESAs be prioritized based on conservation values and threat levels?
7. What are the possible executive and judicial actions that can strengthen the management of ESAs
in the Western Ghats?
he Western Ghats are a well-known hot-
spot of biodiversity. The Ghats are a range
of hills which were once covered with ex-
tensive forest all along the length from the Dangs in
Gujarat to the southern part of Kerala. The North-
ern Western Ghats extend across the three states
of Gujarat, Maharashtra and Goa which is also a
region that includes several unique ecosystems and
harbours a large number of threatened and endem-
ic species. It also includes areas with rich cultural
heritage sites.
A paper on the zoogeography of the Western
Ghats (Ramakrishna, Radhakrishnan, and Gopi
2001) characterises the Western Ghats on the basis
of geology, biology and elevation. The northern
sector is lower in altitude than most of the south-
ern section. At an altitude of less than 1500 m,
the northern sector has more impacts on the fragile
landscape elements than in the South. The West
East division shows bio-geographical variations
ranging from coastal plains to hill ranges that
merge into the Deccan Plateau. The range itself
is covered by fragmented patches of forests as well
as intensively used landuse patterns. The Western
part primarily has unique steep rocky escarpments
that are covered with waterfalls in the monsoon.
The crest line is a narrow strip broken into flat lat-
eritic plateaus. The eastern slopes decent gradually
to the Deccan Plateau and have irregular off shoots
and spurs interspaced with water bodies created by
dams that deride the ranges and plateau and flood
plains of rivers into minor and major watersheds.
The high level of fragility of the Western Ghats
ecosystems is thus due to its inherent geomorpho-
logical, climatic and biological characteristics. The
areas biodiversity status which consists of ever-
green and semi evergreen forest has seen rapid deg-
radation in the recent past. A report on a descrip-
tion of the Western Ghats as a biodiversity hotspot
(Gunawardene et al. 2007) states that the Western
Ghat has 6% of Indias landmass with 30% of
plants and animals. However, only one third of
the region is under natural vegetation in the to-
tal extent of the hill range which covers 180,000
square kilometres. This makes it imperative that
conservation measures are urgently implemented
to preserve what is left of this important natural
and cultural heritage area.
The current ecologically valuable assets in the
Western Ghats are an outcome of the local histori-
cal background, such as the tradition to preserve
sacred groves which is embedded in ancient tribal
culture and folklore; the good governance prin-
ciples of Shivaji Maharaj which included an edict
issued to protect tree cover of the Ghats. His fore-
sight and vision was promulgated throughout his
kingdom well before this was foreseen elsewhere.
The British had a strong self-interest to preserve
forests through a system of Reserved Forests.
However, they exploited the forests for their own
enormous timber requirements especially during
the two World Wars. They used large quantities of
teak to build their ships. Deforestation continued
in post Independent India for several decades.
In more recent times there were moves made
mainly by non-government organizations which
lobbied strongly for containing the on-going de-
struction of forests in the Western Ghats. Finally
the Forest Department developed new Working
Plans which excluded the practice of timber extrac-
tion from the Ghats after the mid-1980s in Maha-
rashtra. Gujarat had a moratorium on the extrac-
tion of timber from the teak forests in the Dangs
for several years.
In the 1970s and 1980s all the states created a
series of Protected Areas (PAs) in the Ghats. This
was a response to a strong directive from the then
Prime Minister Mrs Indira Gandhi. Following
this a series of administrative actions for different
objectives have attempted to protect the inherent
values of the sensitive ecological attributes of the
While a chain of Protected Areas has been creat-
ed from north to south in the Ghats such as Purna
Wild Life Sanctuary (WLS) and Vansda National
Park in Gujarat; Kalsubai WLS, Bhimashankar
WLS, Tansa WLS, Sanjay Gandhi National Park,
Koyna WLS, Chandoli WLS, Phansad WLS and
Radhanagri WLS in Maharashtra and Molem
WLS, Cotagi WLS and Bondla WLS in Goa, their
potential for connectivity through corridoring, or
lack thereof, has not been adequately assessed.
One of the earliest moves to bring attention to
the ecological sensitivity of the Western Ghat was
the Save Western Ghat March organized through
a consortium of NGOs in the concerned states in
November 1987. The prime mover was the late
Shri Jagdish Godhole. The other interested in-
dividuals were Dr. K. C. Malhotra (Anthropolo-
gist), Vijay Paranjape and Dr. E. K. Bharucha then
WWF Pune Committee Members and several
other NGOs and NGIs. The March was flagged
off by the Maharaja of Bansda who was seriously
concerned by the depletion of wildlife in Gujarat
and Admiral Awati then Chairman of WWF-Ma-
harashtra and Goa. The March that went through
all the states eventually ended in Kerala at Kan-
yakumari. It was well published in the press and
strongly supported by NGOs, academicians, the
public at large and to some extent by concerned
forest officials.
The Western Ghats today are being rapidly de-
graded due to various landuse changes that have
occurred in the recent past. Apart from the tradi-
tional impacts from farming, grazing and fire there
are newer changes in landuse that are leading to
biodiversity losses. This includes deforestation due
to mining, roads, dams, townships and industrial-
ization. Changing existing wilderness areas into
intensive agriculture, urbanization and industry
in Maharashtra, Gujarat and Goa has altered the
natural ecological attributes over the last several
decades. This has not spared the Western Ghats
where dams, roads and other economic develop-
ment programs have led to new forms of landuse.
The industrial expansion due to globalization of
the late 90s led to rural industrialization which
has been strongly supported by the Industrial De-
velopment Corporations. The river valley projects
that have been developed for over a century now
include nearly every possible major valley leaving
very few as intact forest tracts. Mining has cre-
ated large gaps. Added to these gaps are a string
of roads winding across expanses of several kilo-
metres (Ramakrishna, Radhakrishnan, and Gopi
2001). The special requirements of sustainable
development in areas that are ecologically fragile
such as the Western Ghats finds little place in cur-
rent planning processes.
While the Western Ghats in the southern states
have been better studied, the ranges of the northern
sector have been neglected. The two ecosystems
vary widely and suffer from different human im-
Degraded areas across the Ghats now form a
mosaic of patches with different levels of degrada-
tion. Climate change will further add to alterations
in biodiversity values in future. Any adaptation
strategy to preserve the integrity of the natural for-
ests, in the context of future climate change, will
have to take into account the varied landscape ele-
ments that are inherent environmental assets in the
Western Ghats. The strategy should preserve bio-
logical diversity, hydrological balance and ecologi-
cal services. (Ramakrishna et al. 2001)
Over the last several years it has been appreci-
ated that protected areas alone (National Parks
and Wildlife Sanctuaries) cannot conserve or pro-
tect all species and ecosystems as islands in a ma-
trix of other forms of landuse. Thus the concept
of biosphere reserves, ecologically sensitive areas
and community conserved areas has led to newer
and wider frameworks for conservation at the land-
scape level. This has also been expressed and given
legal sanctity through the Environment Protection
Act 1986 and several such areas have already been
notified in India (see box).
Section 3(2)(v) of the Act empowers the central
government to take all such measures that it deems
necessary to protect and improve the quality of
the environment and prevent environmental pollu-
tion. It allows for the restriction of areas in which
certain developmental activities can be prohibited.
Further, section 5(1) of the Environment (Protec-
tion) Rules (EPR), 1986, specifies certain criteria
like topographic and climatic features of an area,
biological diversity of the area, environmentally
compatible land use, extensive cultivation, proxim-
ity to the protected areas, etc. that can be consid-
ered while prohibiting or restricting certain opera-
tions in different areas.
The forests of the Western Ghats have been con-
sidered critically important habitats for biodiversity
conservation over several decades. Conservation
Section 3 of the Environment (Protection) Act 1986 (EPA) gives power to the Central Government i.e. the
Union Ministry of Environment and Forests to take all measures that it feels are necessary for protecting and
improving the quality of the environment and to prevent and control environmental pollution. To meet this
objective, the Central Government can restrict areas in which any industries, operations or processes or class of
industries, operations or processes shall not be carried out or shall be carried out subject to certain safeguards
[Section 3(2)(v)]
Section 5(1) of the Environment (Protection) Rules, 1986 (EPR), states that the central government can
prohibit or restrict the location of industries and carrying on certain operations or processes on the basis of
considerations like the biological diversity of an area (clause v) maximum allowable limits of concentration of
pollutants for an area (clause ii) environmentally compatible land use (clause vi) proximity to protected areas
(clause viii).
planning has included the main range and its as-
sociated hills as a region of great biological value
by notifying a series of PAs (Rodgers and Panwar
1988). However, the importance of protecting in-
tervening areas has not been given sufficient at-
tention. The need to preserve these unprotected
gaps as forest corridors in a well-managed network
requires urgent attention. Currently there are no
clearly defined strategies for implementing this
concept. Buffer areas for National Parks, notifying
Ecologically Sensitive Areas (ESAs) around each
Protected Area, and the creation of Biosphere Re-
serves have similar and even overlapping objectives
which can form a basis for developing an overarch-
ing conservation policy for the Western Ghats.
These currently used strategies have however not
been able to protect corridors for preserving the
long-term values of biodiversity in the northern
sector of the Western Ghats. There have been no
integrated plans for developing an interstate PA
system for the Ghats. It is thus important to define
various categories of ESAs and manage them ef-
fectively through a well regulated network under a
single authority.
A historical review shows that the forests formed
a continuous tract which was minimally impacted
by human activity till only a few decades ago. The
forested Ghats act as the life support system for lo-
cal residents as well as for people of the adjacent
coastal belt and Deccan Plateau. The implications
of deforestation and land degradation are already
evident. Thus if these ecologically sensitive systems
are disrupted further, the residual relict natural for-
est ecosystems will be converted into serious envi-
ronmental problems. In ecosystem management,
prevention of degradation is better and cheaper
than the cure. Thus apart from long term economic
losses due to unsustainable development, restora-
tion will become financially unviable. The tipping
point at which landscape level changes will sub-
stantially hinder sustainable development cannot
be easily ascertained.
In many areas across India economic develop-
ment will not unduly disrupt the more robust nat-
ural ecological processes. In the Western Ghats
however environmental changes will rapidly dam-
age the highly sensitive ecosystem as the Western
Ghats is a thin north- south aligned strip of nar-
row forested hills with specific geographical, cli-
matological, geological, hydrological and biologi-
cal aspects. If this is disrupted anywhere along its
length, there will be a rapid deterioration of any
possibility of long-term preservation of biodiver-
sity, unless the fragile region is notified as a set
of Ecologically Sensitive Areas. This will require
a new policy which can be implemented through
specific management strategies and rules created
to implement conservation of these varied fragile
The landscape elements that must be protected
as Ecologically Sensitive Areas in the Western
Ghats are of several types. The protected patches
currently include the existing National Parks and
Wildlife Sanctuaries, the Reserved Forest patches,
and to some extent, the forested hill stations.
Fragments of the more remote forests have a
relatively intact ecological status as compared
with areas that have been subjected to recent lan-
duse changes. Apart from the forests there are
also more cryptic and specialized landscape ele-
ments that must be preserved for their great eco-
logical value. These include lateritic plateau tops,
rocky escarpments with seasonal waterfalls, sacred
groves, remote sites covered by old growth forests,
river sources and the catchments of dams and riv-
ers. These ecologically sensitive areas must be
identified and managed in order to form a corri-
dor through a network for maintaining the genetic
diversity of flora and fauna. The important un-
protected corridors between the Protected Areas of
the Ghats and the adjacent coastal belt must also
be identified as ESAs in spite of being degraded.
This would require the use of new and innovative
ecorestorative strategies.
No importance has been given to prevent the
continual loss of forest cover in the catchments of
dams in the Western Ghats. The Western Ghats
are the sources of all the rivers of the Deccan and
the coast. These catchments are essential for pre-
serving life support systems for water to cities, ir-
rigating croplands that ensure food security and
the supply of water to industries. The catchment
zones of all these dams constitute a set of special
mission, was entrusted with the task of studying
the issue to make appropriate recommendations
to the Government. The Committee provided its
comprehensive and well researched report on the
selection of parameters for designating Ecologi-
cally Sensitive Areas (Sen 2000). However in spite
of this visionary and scientifically framed docu-
ment, which was circulated to a large number of
experts and NGOs, strategies for implementation
have been woefully inadequate across the country.
A major cause for inaction has been that the docu-
ment had not spelled out the time frame and agen-
cies responsible for implementation of ESAs at the
national and state level. This relative weakness has
left the fragile landscape elements of the Sahayad-
ris to the vagaries of the voracious appetite of short
term economic development processes.
While all the conditions of the Pronab Sen Re-
port are not necessarily relevant to the Western
Ghats, identification of the relevant parameters,
designing modifications specifically for the West-
ern Ghats and including all its different sensitive
landscape elements to the list of suggested ESAs
must become a key objective of the current pro-
posed strategy for conserving the biodiversity of
the Ghats. Other reports such as that of the Mohan
Ram Committee (Ram 2001) have further added to
a deeper understanding of the need for identifying
Ecologically Sensitive Areas of great economic im-
portance to the wellbeing of people of Peninsular
The varied categories of ESAs consisting of sev-
eral landscape elements will have to be preserved
as a network. A chain of diverse interlinked land-
scape elements must be selected to preserve the
ecological, biological and ecosystem functions of
the Western Ghats. This must stem from a conser-
vation policy for the states of Gujarat, Maharash-
tra, Goa, Karnataka and Kerala.
The need for declaring certain special ecological-
ly important sites as ESAs has been discussed in In-
dia for over three decades. The initial moves in the
MOEF were made in 1989. The concept has grown
simultaneously with moving from planning a PA
network for India in 1988 by Rodgers and Panwar
to the need for a broader avenue for protecting bio-
diversity on a wider scale in non-PA areas such as
reserve forests (Kapoor, Kohli, and Manju Menon
At the national level the need to rationalize these
early initiatives of the MOEF by creating ESAs was
felt way back in 1999 and a committee of experts
under the chairmanship of Dr. Pronab Sen, Ad-
viser (Perspective Planning) of the Planning Com-
Year Events
1986 Environment Protection Act (EPA) and Environment Protection Rules ( EPR)
1. Murud-Janjira Notifcation
2. Doon Valley Notifcation
1990 MoEF Report on Parameters for Determining Ecological Fragility
1991 Dahanu ESA Notifcation
1. Aravalli Notifcation
2. Numaligarh No Development Zone
1996 Planning Commission Report on Conserving Ecologically Fragile Ecosystems
1. Taj Trapezium Zone Pollution Authority
2. DraIt Pachmarhi ESA Notifcation
1. Pronab Sen Committee Report
2. DraIt Pachmarhi ESA Notifcation
3. Mahabaleshwar ESA Notifcation
4. DraIt Himalayas ESA Notifcation
2001 Mohan Ram Committee to examine the ESA proposals & review the existing ESAs
2002 Hill Stations Committee
2003 Matheran ESA Notifcation
2008 Mount Abu DraIt ESA Notifcation
2009 Sultanpur ESZ Notifcation measures
Source (Kapoor, Kohli and Menon 2009)
In the recent past however, at the national lev-
el several ecosystems such as the Himalayas, the
North Eastern states, the Western Ghats, coastal
areas, wetlands etc. were recognized as being foci
of recent destruction and even devastation. The
first areas to have been notified by the Ministry of
Environment and Forests (MoEF) as ESAs were
the twin hill stations of Mahabaleshwar and Pan-
chgani and the hills of Matheran in Maharashtra.
These sites have been great tourist attractions for
generations. However, due to their ecological fra-
gility and lack of careful environmental planning,
their hill forest ecosystems were being rapidly de-
graded. Although they are situated in a globally rec-
ognized hotspot of biological diversity in the West-
ern Ghats they have been engulfed in the process
of being converted from evergreen forests into con-
crete jungles! Their notification as ESAs was thus a
strategy to create a more sustainable development
paradigm for these forested hill stations. This was
expected to prevent further degradation of their
forests and biodiversity values and ensure that they
are maintained as crucial corridors for preserving
the biological integrity of the two important Pro-
tected Areas in the northern sector of the Ghats,
namely between Bhimashankar and Koyna. This
was supported by NGOs and given legal sanctity
by the Honourable High Court of Bombay.
The next important group of Ecologically Sensi-
tive Areas was created by the MOEFs instructions
to states to notify belts of land measuring five to ten
kilometres around all Protected Areas as Ecologi-
cally Sensitive Areas under the Environment Pro-
tection Act. This significant notification resulted
from the initiative of the Goa Foundation versus
Union of India judgment in 2004 of the Hon Su-
preme Court and its order in 2006 to declare areas
of 10 km buffer zones around PAs as ESAs. This
has generated both positive and negative reactions
from a variety of stakeholders. The polarization of
viewpoints has led to acrimonious debates between
those who strongly uphold the need to preserve, at
all costs, the treasure house of invaluable biological
diversity within the Protected Areas of the Western
Ghats, and those who believe economic develop-
ment for these poverty ridden backward areas must
get precedence over all else. There is also the third
dimension of people who hope to get rich through
land use changes and speculating on land deals.
The Protected Areas in the Western Ghats are
isolated patches and there has been no concrete ef-
fort to develop an integrated PA network for the re-
gion. Notified Ecologically Sensitive Areas, which
constitute 10 km belts around the PAs, are already
severely impacted by all manner of intensive use
(Bharucha 2006). If one takes into account the ex-
isting rules for ESAs, the 10 kilometre belt around
each Protected Area would include parts of the
coastal belt and the industrialized Deccan Plateau.
Beyond the confines of the Protected Areas
there are substantial areas of high ecological sensi-
tivity suffering from the growing level of impacts.
These forests consist of Reserved Forest, Protected
Forest and Malki tree covered lands with tradi-
tional agriculture. The hill ranges however include
landscape elements such as urbanization, industry,
mining, railways, roads and dams which have now
spread into these once forested tracts. Appreciat-
ing the existing level of impacts and their present
and future spatial spread is of great relevance for
creating effective ESAs.
he overall environmental status of the West-
ern Ghats is now seeing a rapid change in
landscape elements from the once continu-
ous and impenetrable tracts of forest interspersed
by small hamlets of its agropastoral people to
highly intensive landuse elements. Thus process
has changed river tributaries into lakes, forests into
blanks due to mining, and most recently wilderness
into townships. Developing a set of Protected Ar-
eas mainly through the notification of new Protect-
ed Areas during the World Bank Forestry Project
(1984) has not been able to stem the onslaught of
unsustainable development in the Ghats.
The boundaries of what constitutes the Western
Ghats have been seen from different perspectives
by several experts. This has been perceived from a
geomorphological perspective (Diddee 2002), from
the viewpoint of forest types (Champion & Seth
1968), from ecological aspects (Puri 1983) and
from forest types (Pascal 1963). More recently, the
boundaries have been described based on biogeog-
raphy (Rodgers and Panwar 1988) which suggests
a sharp distinction between the hill ranges and the
coastal plains. The Western Ghats boundary as de-
fined by the Western Ghats Expert Ecology panel
(WGEEP) has been adopted for this study of delin-
eating ESAs in the Northern Western Ghats.
The Ghats are characterised by a large diversi-
ty in ecosystems that constitute a major aspect of
their threatened biological diversity. These ecosys-
tems which include not only the forested hill rang-
es but their streams, escarpments, plateaus, rugged
crests etc. are specialised ecological systems with
their own distinctive abiotic (geomorphological,
geographical, hydrological and climatic) variabil-
ity. This has a strong bearing on the biological di-
versity and uniqueness of these ecosystems, com-
munities, species and genetic variability. Thus both
the abiotic and biotic components of these ecosys-
tems contribute towards giving the Western Ghats
its globally recognized hot spot status.
Geomorphology and Hydrology
The crest line of the Ghats, which is generally
1000 meters above sea level, contains isolated
patches of evergreen and semi evergreen forest and
experiences a rainfall of around 5000mm. In most
areas the main hill range is around 30 to 50 km
wide. The escarpment meets the coastal plains
abruptly in the west. The varied landscape ele-
ments, the sea shore, the coastal plains and estua-
rine ecosystems contrast sharply with the hill for-
ests of the Ghats. Where they lie adjacent to each
other they are separated by a narrow distinctive
ecotone. To the east, the Ghats have low ranges
which extend down to 500 - 600 meters where they
merge into the scrub covered hill slopes and the
Deccan plateau grasslands. The steep western es-
carpments that overlook the coastal plains, the river
valleys and coastal estuaries are ecologically sensi-
tive landscape elements. The land use pattern in
the region as a whole thus requires a special focus
on preserving their natural resource conservation
as well as spectacular aesthetic values. The latter is
hardly ever taken into consideration in our country
where resource use is considered of paramount im-
portance today.
Biogeographically, the hill chain of the Western
Ghats constitutes the Malabar province of the ori-
ental realm, running parallel to the West coast of
India from 8N to 21N latitude and stretched over
a length of around 1600 km. They rise as a relative-
ly narrow strip of hills adjacent to the coast as the
western border and reach up to a height of 2800m
before they merge in the east with the Deccan Pla-
teau at an altitude of 500-600m. The average width
of the mountain range is about 100 km (Nagendra
Geologically the Western Ghats may be divided
into two segments. The hills north of the Krishna
basin (largely Maharashtra and Gujarat) with frag-
ile basaltic rocks, are results of the same processes
that gave rise to the Deccan trap (Widdowson and
Cox 1996).
The Western Ghats escarpment in the western
coastal region of peninsular India is locally capped
by plateau remnants on which a regional high-level
laterite carapace is preserved. Geochemical fin-
gerprinting studies show that the laterite has been
developed from a protolith of Panhala Formation
basalts. This is the most recent formation of the
Deccan sequence. It is the original upper layer of
the lava pile. The high-level laterite is structurally
concordant with the underlying basalts. The low-
level, younger laterite carapace has developed in
the Konkan plains below the escarpment where it
is discordant and lies on basalts of the Ambenali
and Poladpur formations, from which it developed
in situ. The low-level laterite rises topographically
in the north. This is a response to differential up-
lift, maximally seen in the Nasik region. The major
structures of the Ghats which excludes the coastal
monocline are in the Nasik dome and the Maha-
baleshwar anticline (Widdowson and Cox 1996)
The Western Ghats escarpment is one of the
classic examples of passive margins of great escarp-
ments in the world. It is an area of rugged terrain,
deep valleys, waterfalls, and dense forest with other
associated landforms such as plateau outliers, deep
gorges, beheaded plateau valleys and laterite pla-
teaux or tablelands. The Ghats is the fountainhead
of many large, east-flowing rivers and numerous
short, swift, coastward-flowing rivers (Kale 2010).
The Dangs district which starts from the rug-
ged mountain chains of the Sahyadri hills in the
east and descends in the west to the plains of Gu-
jarat, forms the northernmost limit of the Western
Ghats. The entire region is extremely hilly, but ex-
cept for a few high hills in the east and the south,
it is essentially made up of a series of flat topped
low hills. The elevation of these hills varies from
105m in the west to 1317m on the eastern border.
On the whole, barring a few high hills and few low
depressions, most of the area in the Dangs lies be-
tween elevations of 300 to 700 meters above mean
sea level. The area is distinctly divided into the
four main valleys of the Gira, Purna, Khapri and
Ambika rivers. All four rivers rise in the hills of the
Western Ghats and flow towards the west.
The Western Ghats between latitudes 1820N
and 1915 N, have been geomorphologically
mapped into three subgroups and ten formations:
the Kalsubai subgroup with the Jawhar, Igatpuri,
Neral, Thakurvadi, and Bhimashankar formations,
the Lonavala subgroup with the Khandala and the
Bushe formations and the Wai subgroup with the
Poladpur, the Ambenali, and the Mahabaleshwar
formations (Beane et al. 1986).
The geomorphology of Maharashtra is mainly
dominated by the presence of Deccan Volcanic
Basalt flows covering an area of about 500,000 sq.
kms. These horizontally disposed lava flows have
been outpoured during the most stupendous epi-
sode of the earths volcanism ranging from Creta-
ceous to Eocene time. These flows cover most of
the west-central India. Along with other volcanic
rocks such as rhyolites, trachytes and andesites,
there are horizons of patchy laterites.
The flows extend in an eastwest direction from
the neighbourhood of Porbundar on the Kathi-
awar peninsula to a little beyond Amarkantak in
the highlands of central India. Isolated exposures
occur further east upon Ambikapur. The province
stretches for some 850 kms, in a north-south direc-
tion, from Nemach in the north to Belgaum in the
south. The individual flows have thickness ranging
from few metres to 100 mts and even more.
The geomorphology of this terrain straddles
two main sub-divisions, namely Upland plateau of
Maharashtra and low-lying Konkan coastal belt.
Both are separated by stupendous Western Ghat
escarpments, overlooking the Konkan coastal belt
towards west. The Western Ghats in Maharashtra
are popularly termed as Sahyadries, which form a
major water divide between the two geomorphic
The research undertaken during post-Koyna
earthquake has brought about a number of geo-
physical characteristics of the region. Accordingly,
it is now accepted that the geomorphology of the
region is shaped due to the tectonic activity of the
peninsular India under the litho-structural and cli-
matic controls.
It is mainly the amalgamation of these con-
trols that the erosional features such as flat topped
mountains, steep, as well as, broad valleys have
been carved out on the earths surface. Kalsubai
forms the highest peak while the typical trappean
flat topped hills are predominantly seen at various
forts like Rajgarh, Raigarh, Purandar, Harischan-
dragarh, etc. The longitudinal profile of the West-
ern Ghats also shows erosional characteristics of
the basalt flows with elevations increasing towards
southern peninsular region.
The Western Ghats region also shows stepped
appearance, as well as, steep escarpment zones.
The former characterizes the flat surfaces to west
of the Sahyadries of the Nashik district (at 300-
360 m) while latter features are valley heads of the
major streams (river Krishna at Mahabaleshwar,
Indrayani and Ulhas at Lonavala, Bhima at Bhi-
mashankar, etc. These varied geomorphic features
are characterized by their typical altitude, climate,
rainfall and rock types. These regions, therefore,
are known for their characteristic forest zones such
as Southern Tropical Semi-evergreen forests of
Bhimashankar, Radhanagari and Amboli; South-
ern Tropical Moist Deciduous forests of Peint
and Surgana Talukas of Nashik district, Wada
and Jawahar in Thane district and Melghat region;
Southern Tropical Dry Deciduous forests of Chan-
drapur, Gadchiroli, Nagpur, Bhandara Wardha
and Yevatmal districts; Thorny forests stretched
right from Khandesh in the north to the Solapur
and Sangli districts in the north.
The characteristic fauna and flora are met with
at all these hilly and valley tracts of the basalt flows
and exhibit an astonishing biodiversity at different
elevations, latitudes and longitudes. The lithology,
climate and structural configuration of the basalt
flows together have shaped the characteristic bio-
diversity of these regions. These zones being very
eco-sensitive, have been undergoing tremendous
destruction due to mans interference. The growth
and nurturing of such a wide spectrum of fauna
and flora may not be possible unless the zones are
strictly protected under the state laws. If this trea-
sure is to be maintained for the future generations
then there is no substitute for the preservation of
this biodiversity (Dikshit 2001).
Presence of numerous barren, rocky, lateritic
plateaus, locally known as sadas, is a unique fea-
ture of the Northern Western Ghats. It supports
characteristic ephemeral flush vegetation that in-
cludes monotypic genera, many of which have a
highly restricted distribution (Kanade et al. 2008).
Since all the rivers in the Western Ghats are mon-
soon dominated, the annual flow pattern changes
in accordance with the monsoon rainfall. Most riv-
ers in the Western Ghats are characterised by a tri-
partite sequence of flows (Diddee 2002):
1. Dry or very low non-monsoon flows
2. Normal monsoon flows
3. Infrequent high magniture floods
Some unique characteristics of the river systems
are (Diddee 2002)
Throughout the year, most rivers follow a simple
fluvial regime, showing only one significant maxi-
The rivers flow rises at the beginning of the
monsoons much more quickly than it falls at the
end of the monsoon.
During the monsoon, river flows show many
sharp peaks, sometimes increasing daily discharge
by an order of magnitude
Most rivers vary significantly both intraannually
and interannually in terms of their stream flows
and their flood magnitudes
Rivers in the Western Ghats show low flood
It has been shown that due to changes in the
catchment land use and vegetation cover as well as
due to construction of a large number of dams and
weirs on most of the rivers in the Western Ghats,
the natural cycles of flooding and sediment trans-
portation have been affected (Diddee 2002).
Climatic conditions in the Western Ghats vary
with the altitude and physical proximity to the Ara-
bian Sea and the equator. Although the Western
Ghats experience a tropical climate - being warm
and humid during most of the year with mean the
temperature ranging from 20C in the south to
24C in the north, the higher elevations experience
subtropical climates and on occasions frost. Fur-
ther, it has been observed that the coldest periods in
the Western Ghats coincide with the wettest (Dan-
iels 2001).
Whereas rainfall peaks of 9000 mm and above
per year, are known locally, annual rainfall as low
as 1000 mm are frequent in the east bringing the
average to around 2500 mm. The northern West-
ern Ghats receive the highest rainfall (locally over
9000 mm) and yet experience dry weather over
more than half the year. On the contrary, areas re-
ceiving much less rainfall in Kerala and closer to
the equator experience rain almost all through the
year. Much of the rainfall is received during the
southwest monsoon season. Peak period of rainfall
is July-August (Daniels 2001).
At the biogeographic regional level the Ghats can
be divided as described by (Rodgers and Panwar
1988). At a smaller scale however, the Ghats have
a variety of smaller distinctive landscape elements,
microhabitats and niches. This mosaic adds to the
ecosystem diversity: the communities of floral and
faunal elements that inhabit them and the range of
species from common to the most fascinating en-
demics. The ecosystem that is most familiar is the
forest which has been given a range of descriptive
Of special concern are grassy and herb covered
plateaus, some of which are natural while others
are a result of biotic pressures due to traditional
forms of agriculture, fires lit by local people and
cattle grazers. It is the natural monsoonal vegeta-
tion of plateaus that appears to have a large pro-
portion of endemics and endangered or threatened
plants (Watve and Thakur 2006)
The specialised waterfalls, cascades and streams
constitute highly specialized aquatic lentic systems
with specialised aquatic plants, insect, amphibia
and fish. This has another component of congru-
ent endemics from a variety of taxa that show high
concentrations in and around these water courses.
The stream banks are a profusion of terrestrial flo-
ral and faunal elements that can be observed as
vertical belts of vegetation in a series of horizon-
tal forest tracts created by rocky escarpments and
forests on the shallow soil due to repeated ancient
volcanic activity.
Within such perennial and ephemeral areas there
are microhabitats such as pools with algae, aquatic
insects such as whirly gig beetles, water skaters etc.
Such waterfalls and pools form the favoured habi-
tats of birds such as the spectacular songster, the
Malabar Whistling Thrush.
The small but ancient sacred groves are equally
enthralling. Their ancient buttressed giant trees
tower over the rest of the shrubland, created
through hundreds of years of agricultural pasture
At the most micro level, tree bark covered in
moss and lichen is the home of insect life, shrill
intermittent shrieking cicadas, the silent flap of
moth wings at dusk and the persistent call of the
night jar, punctuated by a disturbed lapwing calling
did you do it? as it flies agitatedly over this pleth-
ora of microhabitats in the forest, epitomises the
magnificence of the evergreen forest ecosystem.
Even a small snag or hole in a large old tree is home
to a myriad of faunal species, changing with each
Forest Types
There are 16 major forest types in India, accord-
ing to studies by Champion and Seth (1968) and
they are classified on the basis of their dominant
tree species. This gives importance to the three or
four most common tree species within them.
There are 16 major forest types in India, accord-
ing to studies by Champion and Seth (1968) classi-
fied on the basis of their dominant tree species. Of
these three types are prominently seen in the North-
ern Western Ghat. This gives importance to the
three or four most common tree species within
A forest classification for India that is based on
ecological considerations and the dominant com-
mon or distinctive species has been developed by
GS Puri (Puri et al, 1983). This holistic classifica-
tion describes about 29 distinctive types that range
from the most arid thorn forests, to the high rainfall
evergreen forms. While these different forest types
are based on important tree species, several char-
acteristic types such as open grass covered areas or
degraded vegetation forms depending on the level
of human pressure are described. Such open areas
are frequently of biological value as they form a
different habitat type for several plant and animal
According to Puri 1983 the forests in the north-
ern part of the Western Ghats include Moist Tropi-
cal Forest which includes:
Group 1A - Southern Tropical Wet Evergreen
Group 2A - Southern Tropical Semi Evergreen
Forest and West Coast Semi Evergreen Forest
The forest structure consists of a profusion of
plant species in the groundcover, the shrub layer,
epiphytes and climbers at trunk level, and is char-
acterised by a closed canopy cover. The forests of
the crestline of the Western Ghats of Maharashtra
are areas in which most of the trees are evergreen.
In other areas there are hill slopes covered by de-
ciduous forests.
The Moist-Deciduous Teak Forest
This type has a series with TectonaDilleniaLa-
gerstroemia lanceolataterminalia paniculata. In the
Northern Western Ghats this occurs predomi-
nantly on the western slopes of the Western Ghats
north of Goa. The forest occurs at a height of 600
to 1000 metres (Puri 1983).
The Semi-Evergreen Forest
This type has a ToonaGaruga series. The cano-
py itself is semi-deciduous in nature, which makes
the forest an intermediate type between more Wet
Evergreen communities and the Moist-Deciduous
Types (Puri 1983).
Evergreen Forest
The evergreen types of the Southern part of the
Western Ghats contrast sharply with those north
of Goa.
The MemecylonActinodaphneSyzygium series
of the Western Ghats north of Goa is a typical for-
est type that has been extensively fragmented. This
typical form has as many as six ficus species. These
forests are typically seen in Mulshi, Mawal, Maha-
baleshwar and Bhimashankar in Maharashtra.
This is a three-tiered, low, but extremely dense veg-
etation type, consisting of mostly evergreen spe-
cies. It rarely grows taller than 15 metres, especially
in the exposed windy areas. It is usually located
700 metres above sea level. Between 600 to 700 me-
tres, the common series on western slopes and
above 800 metres on eastern slopes of the Western
Ghats is the BrideliaFicus racemosaSyzygium se-
ries. This is a transitional form between the moist
teak and the evergreen MemecylonActinodaphne
Syzygium series.
In general the forests of the Sahyadharis in the
Western Ghats of Maharashtra are known as Trop-
ical Evergreen Forests which cover sections of the
steep hill slopes (Champion and Seth 1968). The
plant community varies significantly in the differ-
ent topographic features. There are open plateaus
with a large diversity of herbs, many of which are
rare and steep precipices with specially adapted
plants. The vegetation along nala courses differs
from the rest of the forest. This feature leads to the
formation of several microhabitats with their own
plant communities.
High Altitude Forest
Above 900 metres, the red lateritic soils support
small relict patches of a special form of forest con-
sisting of Syzygium cumini (Jamun), Actinodaph-
nae sp. (Pisa), Mangifera indica (Mango) with an
under-story of Memecylon sp. (Anjan) trees and
an undergrowth of Carvia callosa (Karvi). This is
typical of patches in the northern part of the West-
ern Ghats, where the rainfall is over 5000 mm.
These forests are rich in forest birds, amphibia and
insect life.
Low Level Forest
Typically the forests that occur in depressions
and along nala courses create a mozaic with the
dome-shaped hilltops covered by open grasslands.
The water courses include forest patches with river-
ine vegetation. The giant trees of the valley forests
contrast sharply with the grassy slopes and crags
that form vertical rock faces nearly devoid of plant
These valley forests are extremely dense. In
most situations the trees grow to a height of about
45 metres. About 75 per cent of the trees are of
species that may individually contribute only 1
per cent of the tree community. The height of the
trees below the canopy is occasionally structured
into well-defined layers with a specific canopy tree
and a community of different under-storey trees.
At times the vegetation forms a tangle of thick
foliage. The numerous climbers range from small
vines to giant lianas, the latter standing on their
own even after the supporting tree dies. In areas
where the canopy is exceptionally dense, the floor
of the forest has very little vegetation. The ground
is covered with decaying leaves, fungi and rocky ex-
posures. Nala courses and sloping soil from which
subsoil water finds its way out in minute trickles
have banks of ferns and bryophytes. These forests
are extremely rich in orchids. The undergrowth has
cane and bamboo in patches. Strobilanthus callosa
(Karvi shrubs frequently occur as ground cover es-
pecially along the edges of a forest patch or in for-
est openings. This plant occurs gregariously, cover-
ing large open areas with their dense impenetrable
stalks and flowers cyclically after seven years of
Description of Forest in the Western Ghats of
According to Champion and Seths (1968) re-
vised classification of forest types (1968), the for-
ests of the Dangs belong to the subgroup; South
Indian Moist Deciduous forests. Within this type
they are classified a moist teak forests. Based on
the holistic classification of vegetation followed by
Puri et al. (1983) these forests are classified as de-
ciduous teak forest types intermediate between dry
and moist categories. They are named as the Tec-
tona-Terminalia-Adina-Anogeissus series which is
also encountered in the Valsad district of Gujarat,
Nasik and Thane districts of Maharashtra and in
Nagar Haveli. Teak is the most dominant species
and its occurrence is almost universal throughout
the area. The composition of tree growth varies
slightly according to the edaphic and biotic factors
but by and large it is the same throughout the area
(Worah 1991). According to Gadgil and Meher-
Homji (1986) it is vital that the vegetation of this
region should be preserved and not sacrificed on
the altar of teak plantations. The only other areas
in the country where the forest series represented
in the Dangs, the Tectona-Terminalia-Adina_Ano-
geissus series is found area are all heavily degraded.
In view of these facts the conservation importacne
Percentage Loss of Forest Cover in the Dangs (Worah, 1991)
of these forests cannot be overemphasised.
Description of Forests in the Western Ghats in
Champion and Seth describe the Montane sub-
tropical forests of this region. It includes Group
8-Subtropical Broad leaved hill forests, of which
Subgroup 8A-Southern Subtropical Broad leaved
Hill Forests occurs in Maharashtra. In contrast to
the Southern Western Ghat these northern forests
grow where rainfall is relatively lower and unequal-
ly distributed, having a marked dry season. These
forests occur between 1000 m and 1700 m; and
typically occur in Mahabaleshwar at 1300m. The
neighbouring forests are of the dry deciduous type.
Champion and Seth (1968) describes the crest-
line forests in Maharashtra as type C2-Western
Subtropical Broad leaved Hill Forests as having
unique features. In well developed form it is a
dense evergreen forest of mixed species, where the
height does not exceed 15 m. The trees have a typ-
ical spreading habit. The old trunks become hal-
low. Occasionally large emergents are Terminalias
or Stereospermum trees of great girth. These for-
ests mainly grow above 100 m in Maharashtra.
Good examples are found in Mahabaleshwar and
Bhimashankar where rainfall is relatively high.
The soil is formed from basaltic trap which is cov-
ered by a thick lateritic cap especially over the flat
plateau tops that are devoid of tree cover but have
a profusion of ground flora with endemic and rare
plants. Champion calls this type C2 - Western Sub-
tropical Hill forest which has Syzygium cumini, Acti-
nodaphne hookeri, Memecylon umbellatum as its dom-
inant trees. Randia dumetorum, Flacourtia latifolia,
Terminalia Chebula, Olea dioica, Glochidion hohenack-
eri, Pouteria tomentosa are also found in the canopy.
The undergrowth consists of Carvia callosa, Canthi-
um dicocium, Scutia myrtina. The shrubs include
Capparis pedunculosa, Zizyphus rugosa, Pavetta indica.
Puri and Mahajan (1960) describe three other com-
munities which predominantly include Terminalia
chebula, Kandia dumetorum and Artocarpus hirsuta.
Along the Western coast of Maharashtra Cham-
pion and Seth describe, Group 2 - Tropical Semi
evergreen Forest, type 2A /C2 , and West coast
Semi-evergreen forest. The last is an intermediate
type that occurs between evergreen and moist de-
ciduous with Xylia and Bambusa arundiracea (cane)
and several climbers. The lower storey is mostly
evergreen. The forest typically forms a thin strip.
The rainfall is between 2000 and 2500mm. This
forest runs along hill slopes from 450m to 1050 m.
It has mainly Terminalia paniculata, Largestoremia
lanceolata, Holigarna arnottiana, Elaeocarpus serratus,
Mallotus philippensis.
The type 5 A / C3 Southern Dry Mixed Decidu-
ous forest of the Northern Western Ghat differs
from Dry Teak forest in having different domi-
nants such as Boswellia. It also includes some
thorny plants. It is poor in climbers. The rainfall
is between 875mm to 1125 mm. The character-
istic trees include Anogeissus latifolia, Terminalia to-
mentosa, Hardwickia binata, Boswellia serrata, Hetero
phragma quadriculare, Dichanthium annulatum. The
common shrubs include a profusion of Xizyphus
mauratiana. However, the undergrowth is generally
poor and there are patches with dense grass which
grows during the monsoon.
Pascal describes the Memecylon umbellatum
Syzyguim cumini - Actinodaphn angustifolia type in
great detail as it is different in structure and com-
position. The upper story has over 60% of Meme-
cylon trees with a complement of deciduous trees
giving the overall appearance of a semi ever-
green forest type. The trees are stunted, gnarled,
and covered in moss and lichens. It is said to be a
secondary edaphic form on the lateritic cap, but is
very ancient.
The loss of forest cover in the Western Ghats
region of Maharashtra over a period of 20 years
has been studied by (Panigrahy et al. 2010). The
decrease in the area of dense forest and increase in
open forest and scrublands are indicators of pres-
sures on the core forested areas. The significant in-
crease in water bodies has been a response to the
growing needs of agriculture, industry and urban-
ization. The impact is related to a further fragmen-
tation of forest continuity. While some species can
get across water bodies others are completely cut
off from neighbouring populations.
According to the State of Forest Report (For-
est Survey of India 2001), in Maharashtra, Thane
district shows the most serious (29.29%) decrease
in dense forest, followed by Nashik (22.5%) and
Ratnagiri (16.45%). Only Raigad district shows
a marginal increase (2.79%) in dense forest. All
other districts follow a decreasing trend. The ma-
jor chunk of dense forest is transformed to open
forest and scrublands. Thane district shows a large
increase (30.67%) in open forest which is mostly
contributed by the degradation of dense forest. An
increasing trend is also followed by Nashik district
(>27.25%). Except Mumbai and Kolhapur, all oth-
er districts follow an increasing trend. Mangrove
forests were interpreted only in the four coastal dis-
tricts of Maharashtra, i.e. Thane, Mumbai, Raigad
and Ratnagiri. Raigad district shows highest posi-
tive change in mangroves followed by Thane and
Mumbai, whereas Ratnagiri district shows slight
decrease. Highly dense tree farm land is mapped
only in the four districts, i.e. Raigad, Ratnagiri, Sa-
tara and Sindhudurg. The area statistics follows an
increasing trend in Raigad, whereas a decreasing
trend in Sindhudurg and more or less no change
in Satara and Ratnagiri districts. Less dense tree
farm land is also mapped in only four districts, i.e.
Raigad, Ratnagiri, Satara and Sindhudurg. Only
Sindhudurg district follows an increasing trend
in statistics, whereas Raigad and Ratnagiri show
a decreasing trend. Scrubland area is decreased in
Satara district whereas it is increased in all other
Forest Cover Change in Maharashtra over 20 Years (Source: Panigrahy et. al 2010)
districts. Sindhudurg district (26.28%), Thane
(21.72%) and Kolhapur (19.01%) exhibit the high-
est change in scrublands. The water body area
has increased more or less in all the districts, out
of which Kolhapur (by 10 times) and Sangli (by 6
times) show the highest change.
Landscapes in which vegetation is mainly formed
by grasses and small annual plants form a variety
of grassland ecosystems with their specific plants
and animals adapted to Indias varied climatic con-
ditions. Grasslands are usually formed in areas of
low rainfall where there is poor soil depth or qual-
ity. These conditions inhibit the growth of trees
and shrubs but are sufficient to support the growth
of grasses and herbs, that spring from the ground
during the monsoon. These grasses and herbs dry
off during the summer months, only to grow back
in the next monsoon. This changes the appearance
of the grasslands according to the season, with
a growth phase followed by a dormant phase. A
variety of grasses, herbs, insects, birds and mam-
mals have evolved to live in these grassland areas.
Grasslands have been used by man as pastures for
their livestock ever since he became a pastoralist in
ancient times.
Grasslands form a variety of ecosystems ac-
cording to the different climatic conditions. The
grasslands of the Northern Western Ghats most of
which have been over-grazed or turned into agri-
cultural lands through irrigation. Grasslands also
occur when clearings are made in a forest, or when
repeated fires are lit that do not allow the forest to
regrow. Each grassland type has its own commu-
nity of grasses and herbs. They also form habitats
for specialized animals.
Human beings began to use these as pastures to
feed their livestock when they changed from being
hunter-gatherers to pastoralists. In the past, such
grassy areas were considered to be the common
pastures of a village community, and were appro-
priately managed. Changes in land-management
have led to grasslands becoming degraded and
unproductive. Our growing livestock population,
however still depends mainly on these degraded
grassland ecosystems. A major threat is the con-
version of lowland grasslands into irrigated farm-
lands. As pressures on land increased, these village
commons were the first to be degraded (Bharucha
Streams and Rivers
These ecosystems include freshwater ecosystems
like lakes, rivers, ponds and wetlands. These eco-
systems are rich in their diversity and provide hu-
mans with a wealth of natural resources and ser-
vices. Water, an essential ingredient for life, is
provided by these ecosystems. These ecosystems
include specialized plant and animal species that
are adapted to live in water. These aquatic ecosys-
tems are characterized by their abiotic features or
physical aspects such as quality of water, including
salinity, rate of flow, clarity and oxygen content.
They are classified as being either still-water eco-
systems such as ponds and lakes, or running-water
ecosystems like streams and rivers. The bed of the
aquatic ecosystem, i.e. the mud, gravel or rocks at
the bottom, alters its characteristics and influences
its species composition.
Streams and rivers are flowing-water ecosystems
in which all the living forms are specially adapted
to different rates of flow. Some plants and animals
such as the snails and other burrowing animals can
withstand the rapid fl ow of the hill streams.
Other species of plants and animals like the wa-
ter beetles and skaters can live only in slower mov-
ing water. Some species of fish, such as the mah-
seer, go upstream from rivers to hill streams for
breeding. They need crystal-clear water to be able
to breed. They lay eggs only in clear water so that
their young can grow successfully.
As deforestation occurs in the hills the water in
the streams that once flowed throughout the year
becomes seasonal. This leads to flash floods in the
rains and a shortage of water once the streams dry
up after the monsoon.
The community of flora and fauna of streams
and rivers depends on the clarity, the rate of flow
and oxygen content as well as the nature of their
beds. The stream or river can have a sandy, rocky
or muddy bed, each type having its own species of
plants and animals. River ecosystems have been
been cradles of human civilization, and in India,
as elsewhere in the world, ancient settlements were
established on river banks. As these settlements
grew, people attempted to retain water, the most
precious of resources, for longer periods by con-
structing dams. However, changing the flow pat-
terns of rivers beyond a certain limit has in fact led
to serious problems and a loss of productivity in
the aquatic ecosystem and in the surrounding land
(Bharucha 2008).
A very important but neglected and little studied
ecosystem is the sadas or the rocky out-crops in
the Western Ghats. There have been very little
studies done on this unique ecosystem. One of the
only studies on this ecosystem is by Watve and
Thakur 2006. These rocky outcrops are masses of
exposed rock with very shallow soil cover varying
from a few millimetres to 30 centimeters. The soil
scarcity makes it very difficult for perennial vegeta-
tion to thrive. The study by Watve et al. has listed
20 major plateaus in the western-most parts of Sa-
tara, Sangli, Kolhapur and the eastern Sindhudurg
district as being unique Indian rock outcrops due to
being isolated island like formations on the tops of
tall hill ranges. The unique biodiveisty on these
rocky outcrops is a result of the extreme climatic
conditions that exist here in combination with the
geology and altitude. This in turn results in ex-
tremely high local endemism among the flora as
well as the fauna.
The Kas plateau which is a 25 km. long north-
south piece of land has 35 endemic plants of which
five are rare and critically endangered. More than
99 percen tof the species are herbaceous annuals
that complete their life cycle during the monsoon.
The profusion of flowering plants on Kas has aptly
given its name as Maharashtras Valley of flow-
ers. The flora on these plateaus is dominated by
Urticularia sp., Eriocaulons sp., Drosera, orchids
and lilies. These plateaus are equally rich in fauna
with several new species fo caecilians being report-
The floral and faunal species of the northern
Western Ghats have elements that are fairly dis-
tinctive to the region and have extremely patchy
distributions. While the southern Western Ghats
has been better studied due to its highly endemic
and charismatic species such as the Lion Tailed
Macaque, the Nilgiri Langur and the Nilgiri Thar,
habitat specific species in the northern Western
Ghats have received less attention. This is because
they are often regarded as less charismatic. For ex-
ample, reptiles, amphibia and a wide spectrum of
herbs and other less flamboyant floral elements
than those seen in the orchids of the south. Nev-
ertheless, the level of threat which is higher in the
north than in the south makes it even more impor-
tant to rapidly assess biodiversity values and put
into place both in situ and ex situ species survival
The Western Ghats is one of the biologically
richest areas in India harbouring no less than 3500
species of flowering plants consisting of about 27%
flowering plants in the country. The Western Ghats
are the most important distribution range for many
plants at family and generic levels which have ex-
tremely restricted distributions. They are a poten-
tial gene pool of many plant species (Ramakrish-
na, C. Radhakrishnan, and K. C. Gopi 2001). The
Ghats harbour a healthy population of most of the
animal species of India with a fairly high degree of
tions in the range of major mammals have become
an overt phenomenon and are often reported in
newspaper articles. However, changes in the ranges
of less known taxa such as Hemidactylus prashadi,
a rare gecko that has spread northwards in Maha-
rashtra, does not make newspaper headlines (Giri
Endangered Vulnerable
Least Concern Endemic Total Threatened
Aguada Fort 1 2 3 1
Ahmednagar 2 1 3 3
Ajgaon 1 1 1
Akkalkuva 1 1
Alibag 1 1 1 3 2
AmbaVillage 2 6 1 9 2
Amravati 2 2 2
Ambavane 3 2 1 6 6
Ambaghat 2 2 1 5 5
Amboli 7 11 1 1 5 2 2 3 1 1 1 3 38 32
Anjanari 2 1 1 4 4
Anjuna 3 7 1 3
Archirne 1 1 1
Aurangabad 2 1 3 3
Baga 1 1 7 9 2
Bapdev Ghat 11 11
Bandra 2 2 2
Bardez 3 3
Bedse 1 1 1
Bhandardara 1 1 1
Bhandup 1 1 2 2
Bhatgar dam 2 2
Bhimashankar 1 3 2 1 2 1 4 69 4 3 9 14
Bhor Ghat 1 3 4 1
Bondla Sanctu-
ary 1 1 3 1 1 2 15 14 38 9
Borivili 1 2 4 2 1 4 1 15 1
Canacona 2 1 2 1 3 6 5 2 15
Candolim 1 1 1
Carambolim 2 2 13 17 4
Castle Rock 1 1 1
Chakur 3 3 3
Chandoli 1 1 5 2 2 18 2 2 33 11
Chapora estu-
ary 1 1 2 4 2
Chandgad 1 2 7 2 12 3
Coastal belt of
Goa 3 1 1 1 1 8 15 7
Colva 2 2
Corlim 2 13 15 2
Chakan Alandi
Road 1 1 1
Chorao sanctu-
ary 1 1
Cortalim 1 1 1
Partial List of Threatened Flora and Fauna in Various Locations in the Northern Western Ghats
A= Amphibians B= Birds R = Reptiles M = Mammals P=Plants
Threatened = Critically Endangered + Endangered + Vulnerable + Near Threatened
Endangered Vulnerable
Least Concern Endemic Total Threatened
Cotigoa WLS 1 1 2 2 4 16 3 29 1
Dabolim 1 1
Dajipur 1 3 2 6 4
Daulatabad 1 1 1
Dangs 1 1 3 3 1 8 7 6 3 1 34 24
Dapoli 2 2 2
Devgad 4 4 4
Devrukh 1 1 2 1
Dhadgaon 3 3
Dhanori 1 1 1
Dhobi Waterfall 1 1
Dhule 1 1 1
Divar 1 2 3 1
Dona Paula 1 1 2 4 1
Dongarwadi 1 1 1
Dudhsagar 2 1 1 1 1 6 5
Dukes Nose 1 1
Caves 1 1 1
Gaganbawda 1 2 3 6 6
Ganpati Pule 1 1 1
Gautala WLS 2 2
Goregaon 1 1 1
Ghod River 1 1 1
Ghoti 2 2
border 2 2 2
Goa Meat
Complex 2 1 1 4 3
dragad 2 5 5 2 14 14
Hewra 1 1 1
Hills of Satara 1 1
Igatpuri 1 1 1 3 6 3
Jarandeshwar 2 2 4 4
Javali 1 1
Junnar 5 7 9 1 22 22
Kalapani 1 1 1
Oyster Rock 1 1
Kagal 1 1
Kalamba 3 3
Kamshet 1 1 2 1
Kanheri Caves 1 1 1
Kankavli 1 1 1
Karanja 1 1 1
Karjat 1 2 3 1
Karli 1 1 1
Endangered Vulnerable
Least Concern Endemic Total Threatened
sanctuary 15 15
Katrajghat 1 2 1 2 6 4
Kas Plateau 2 7 1 3 13 10
Kelshi 1 1 1
Keri 2 4 4 1 2
Khadakwasla 5 5
Khardi 1 1
Khandala 7 6 1 16 1 6 82 1 3 123 37
Khed 2 1 3 3
Kolad 1 2 3 1
Koyna Dam 1 1 1 5 1 3 29 2 2 45 12
Ghat 1 1 2 4 4
Lingmala Wa-
terfall 2 2
Lohagad 1 1 1
Lonavala (INS
Shivaji) 2 3 1 8 3 1 1 17 19
Mahabaleshwar 8 19 2 1 12 1 2 1 4 25 1 3 79 5
Mahim 1 1 1
Maheshma 3 3
Malad 1 1 1
Malangarh 1 1
Marathawada 1 1 1
Marleshwar 1 1 1
Margaon 1 3 4
Marmagoa 4 3 7
Mahad Ghat 1 1 1
Malshej ghat 15 15
Malwan 3 4 2 3 12 12
Maneri 1 1 1
Matheran 1 4 1 9 1 1 1 27 1 1 47 18
Mayem 3 3 3
Mira Bhayandar
Road 1 2 3 3
Mirya 1 1 1
Moti Bagh 1 1
Mulshi 1 1 1 1 15 1 20 4
Mumbai 1 1 2 1
Mumbra 1 2 3 3
Mollem 2 3 2 1 3 4 4 4 18 25 66 23
Nagapur 1 1 1
Nagoa Velley 3 5 8 3
Nagothane 2 2 2
Naneghat 1 1 1
Narayangaon 1 1
Endangered Vulnerable
Least Concern Endemic Total Threatened
Road 1 1 2 1
Navapur 1 1
N.D.A. Pune 1 1
Nizampur 3 3
Osmanabad 1 1 1
Pandavleni Hill 1 1 1
Panaji 2 1 2 2 7 3
Panchgani 1 12 5 1 4 21 44 23
Panhala 1 1 3 5 2
Patan 1 1 1
Paud 1 1 1
Panvel 2 2
Pasarni Ghat
Panshet 37 1 38
Pen 1 1
Peth 1 1 1
Phaltan 1 1 1
Phansad 2 2 26 2 1 33 4
Phonda 2 1 1 1 4 7 16 9
Pimplaner 12 12
Poinguinim 1 6 7
Pratapgad 1 1 1 3 2
Pune 1 1 2 1
Purandar 3 7 5 1 3 19 16
Radhanagari 1 2 2 1 5 3 29 1 4 48 14
Raigad 4 7 1 12 11
Raireshwar 3 1 2 6 4
Rajgad 1 1 2 1
Ramghat 2 4 1 7 7
Ratangad 5 1 6
Ratnagiri 3 1 7 11 11
Roha 1 1 1
Sajjangad 1 1 1
Sakri 3 3
Salsette Island 1 1 2 2
Sanegaon 1 1 1
Saputara 1 1 1
Sanguem 1 1
Sanquelim 1 1 1
Santa Cruz 1 1
Satara Fort 1 1 2 4 2
SawantwadiRF 1 1 1 24 1 28 3
Selaulimn 1 1
Shahada 4 4
Shindewadi 1 1
Shirgaon 1 1 1
Shirpur 2 2
Endangered Vulnerable
Least Concern Endemic Total Threatened
Shirwal 1 1
Shirwata 1 1 1
Sindhudugh 3 1 3 7 7
Sinhagad 1 5 8 4 1 1 53 1 74 2
Talegaon 2 2 2
temple 1 1 1
Tamhini Ghat 3 3
Tansa WLS 1 2 18 21 3
Tapti 8 8
Takmak Hill 1 1 2 2
Torna 1 1 1
Tilari Ghat 2 2 2
Tiswadi 1 1
Trombay 1 2 3 3
Tungar 3 1 1 5 4
warWS 1 11 12 1
Vaibhavwadi 1 1 1
Valpoi 1 3 4 4
Vasco da Gama 1 1 2 1
Valsad 1 2 3 3
Valvan Dam 1 1
Velim 1 1 1
Vasota Fort 1 2 1 1 14 1 2 5
Vengurla 1 2 1 4 4
Verla-Canca 1 1
Wada 2 2
ndovirivers 1 1 1
Yavteshwar 1 1 2 2
Yelur 1 1 1
Aravind et al. (2007) have compared the rate of
discovery of new species for eight taxa in the West-
ern Ghats. They conclude that while the rate of
discovery of birds and butterflies has slowed down,
the possibility of discovery of new species among
frogs, tiger beetles, grasses, asters, ferns and or-
chids is still high considering that not much work
has been done on these taxa.
As taxonomic research into plants and animals
in the Western Ghats continues, new species are
constantly being identified. This is a result of more
intensive work, for example, among Aerocolons in
floral surveys and amphibians such as caecilians
and frogs in faunal studies. Surprisingly, they are
found almost anywhere in the Western Ghats, not
necessarily in very remote, undisturbed or inacces-
sible regions. This makes the precautionary princi-
ple in identifying ESAs one of the most important
aspects in developing possible protection strate-
gies to prevent extinctions in the northern Western
While a few species have shown extended ranges
in the recent past, several others have been reduced
to restricted ranges. A typical example is the north-
ward extension in Maharashtra of elephants from
the south and tigers into Chandoli WLS. Altera-
Sources: Zoological Survey of India, Botanical Survey of India, Important Bird Areas, Red Data Book, ENVIS, AERF, Aparna
Watve, Prachi Mehta, Jayant Kulkarni, Sameer Punde, Varad Giri, Ashok Captain, Ankur Patwardhan
Western Ghats are endemic. Sixty three per cent
of Indias evergreen woody plants are said to be
endemic to the Western Ghats (Daniels 2001).
During a vegetation survey of Chandoli WLS in
the northern Western Ghats, some forest patches
were found to be supporting climatic climax forest
harbouring high levels of tree endemism. A total
of 102 woody plant species were recorded belong-
ing to 85 genera and 44 families, of which 13 tree
species are endemic to Western Ghats and 4 are
threatened (Kanade et al. 2008).
The Botanical Survey of India (BSI) floras that
have been published over the last decade or two pro-
vide a background for further studies that can help
categories ESAs. During the recent past, several
loras of Maharashtra that include the Western
Ghats have been produced between 1996 and 2001.
The Flora for Mahabaleshwar has been produced
in 1993 and 1995 in 2 volumes. The Flora for of
Khandala is relatively old flora and was produced
in 1967. A redo of this Flora would be an appropri-
ate way to appreciate which species have been lost
during the last 50 years. The Plant Diversity Hot
Spots in India An Overview (Hajra and Mudgal
1997) has relevance to the floristic bases on which
ESAs in the Western Ghats could be based.
In 1980, Botanical Survey of India published
Threatened Plants of India A state of the Art
Report (Jain and Sastry 1980); and in 1983 fol-
lowed this with An Assessment of Threatened
Plants of India (Jain and Rao 1983) and the En-
demic Plants of the Indian Region (Ahmedullah
and Nayar 1987).
A review the vegetation, diversity and peculiari-
ty of the flora of the Western Ghats with particular
reference to angiosperms (Nair and Daniel 1986)
and Bauer 2006).
As early as 1904, Hooker had drawn attention to
the distinctive flora of the Western Ghats which he
called the Malabar floristic region. These include
species such as Bambusae, Dipterocarpaceae, Gut-
tiferae, Myristicaceae and Palmae (Arecaceae)
(Hooker 1904).
Four thousand species of flowering plants are
known from the Western Ghats. The gymnosperm
flora is represented by Cycas circinalis (Cyca-
dales), Decussocarpus wallichianus (Coniferales)
and Gnetum ula and G. contractum (Gnetales).
Amongst the lower plants around 320 species of
pteridophytes, 200 species of bryophytes, 300 spe-
cies of algae and 800 species of lichens are known.
There are 600 species of fungi. Fifty-six genera
of flowering plants are considered endemic to the
Western Ghats. Recent studies have suggested that
there could be 1500 endemic species of flowering
plants. Although the exact number keeps varying
with the author and time, what is of interest is that
nearly 38% of all species of flowering plants in the
shows that this flora is of an ancient lineage. Ende-
mism in the angiosperm flora has been reviewed
with present knowledge on the presumably extinct,
endangered, threatened and rare plants of this re-
gion. An attempt has been made to identify the
threats. The current conservation status is dis-
cussed and certain measures to counter the further
loss of species are suggested.
The three volumes of the Red Data Book of In-
dian Plants were written between 1984 and 1987
(Nayar et al. 1987). This shows that much of the
floristic work relevant to the ESAs of the Western
Ghats would have to be based on data collected
twenty years ago! The two more recent works are
also a decade old. These include Endemic and
Threatened Flowering Plants of Maharashtra
(Mishra and Singh 2001) and Flora of Sanjay Gan-
dhi National Park, Borivali (Pradhan et al. 2005).
This illustrates a need for more updated documen-
tation of recent floral status compared with the
older versions. However, this requires funds and
expertise. This could use newer methods of species
identification and distribution which have been
developed in the recent past, for example micro
satellite markers for critically endangered species
(Sumangala et al. 2009).
During the last decade, work done by the Zoo-
logical Survey of India focuses more on North
Eastern states of India and Andaman fauna rather
than on the northern Western Ghats.
Fauna of Gujarat (Vertebrates) and Fauna of
Goa were published in 2000 and 2008 respectively
by the Zoological Survey of India (ZSI). However
a single volume of the fauna of Maharashtra has
not yet been published. There are isolated docu-
ments pertaining to certain areas of Maharashtra.
These include Fauna of Sanjay Gandhi National
Park (Zoological Survey of India 2006) published
in 2006 by the ZSI, A catalogue of new taxa de-
scribed by the scientists of the Zoological Survey
of India, during 1916-1991 (Das, 2003), Globally
Threatened Indian Fauna (Kumar and Khama,
2006), Faunal Resources in India (Alfred, Das,
and Sanyal 1998) and Fauna of Bhimashankar
Wildlife Sanctuary (Mahabal, 2009).
According to a report by the Critical Ecosystem
Partnership Fund (Bawa et al. 2007), in the West-
ern Ghats, there are:
508 species of birds of which 4% are endemic
218 species of fish of which 53% are endemic
157 species of reptiles of which 62% are endemic
137 species of mammals of which 12% are en-
126 species of amphibians of which 78% are en-
New species are still being identified at irregu-
lar intervals in the northern Western Ghat of both
plants and animals. Currently the focus has been
on amphibian insects and plants. A recent exam-
ple is the discovery of a new caecilid caecilian in
the Western Ghat of Southern Maharashtra. These
are just a few examples that demonstrate the rate at
which even little understood taxa are being found.
It is an indicator of not only species richness but
about what still remains unknown to science, hid-
den away in the depths of the forests of the West-
ern Ghats.
The status of large mammals of the northern
Western Ghats has been depleted in large sections
of the Western Ghats. There has been a recent
abundance however in some species within a few
of the Protected Areas. Outside Protected Areas
the situation continues to worsen due to habitat
loss as well as hunt by rich urban dwellers and by
rural people for crop protection and to prevent pre-
dation of their cattle and snaring for meat.
A few species that were not seen over several de-
cades have however been seen in the recent past.
An example is the Rusty Spotted Cat that has been
seen in the Dangs, Nashik and Borivali.
The Gaur population is probably stable in Rad-
hanagari and may have increased to some extent in
Chandoli and Koyna. Gaur have moved towards
old Mahabaleshwar. A single stray male was seen
and tranquilized in the BVIEER Nature Trail at
Dhankawadi which was then considered to be
the southern outskirts of Pune in January 2000
(BVIEER, personal communication).
The Malabar Giant Squirrel may have stable
populations in areas such as Bhimashankar but is
distinctly rarer than a few decades ago in areas
such as Lonavala-Khandala and Mahabaleshwar.
However, as there are no carefully quantified scien-
tific studies on their population dynamics, this re-
mains questionable.
Two species have distinctly expanded their range.
The leopard near Bhimashankar Wildlife Sanctu-
ary has moved into sugarcane agricultural tracts of
Junnar. They have led to serious conflict issues.
Bonnet macaques moving into village and urban
environments such as Matheran have even turned
aggressive towards humans.
Finally the surprise package has been the north-
ward spread of elephants into the Sahyadri in Ma-
harashtra where they have not occurred in histori-
cal times. There has also been a recent northward
range extension of the tiger into Chandoli and
probably as far north as Mulshi through Koyna and
The question that remains unanswered is wheth-
er this indicates a true increase in abundance lead-
ing to moving outwards or an increase in the level
of disturbance in existing habitats.
These movements however, suggest the existence
of viable corridors. But the corridors may be under
serious threats from new forms of landuse.
While sambhar and chital in the Dangs have all
but disappeared except in Vansda National Park,
a small patch of old grown teak forest, these her-
bivores appear to be less abundant everywhere.
Chital however increased distinctly in the Sanjay
Gandhi National Park.
The Mouse Deer and the Four Horned Antelope
are distinctly less common. However, there is little
quantified census of these animals except in PAs
during their annual census.
Nameer et al. provide a comprehensive check-
list of mammals of the Western Ghats which in-
clude 137 species. Thirty two mammals which are
threatened globally or in India occur in the West-
ern Ghats. However, there is not enough informa-
tion to assess the status of 22 mammals. Of the 16
endemics, 13 are threatened in the Western Ghats.
They record 50 species of Chiroptera, 31 species of
Rodentia, 25 Carnivora, 11 Artiodactyla, 11 Insec-
tivora and 5 Primates in the Western Ghats.
The Western Ghats is store house of endemic
flora and fauna, in which endemicity appears to
increase with decreasing body size. Mammals are
well represented in this chain of mountains with
137 species of which 16 are found in no other place
on earth. The mammalian fauna of the Western
Ghats is dominated by insectivores (11 species),
bats (41 species) and rodents (27 species includ-
ing the porcupine). Collectively the various threats
had already led to serious implications on mam-
mal abundance. The authors point out that small-
er mammals have been poorly studied which in
fact dominate the species of the mammals in the
Ghats. Few studies have however paid attention to
the community structure and organisation of these
small mammals in the Western Ghats. There there
have been attempts to review the understanding of
the status and ecology of smaller cats and lesser
carnivores. Evergreen forests are particularly suit-
ed to frugivorous arboreal primates and squirrels
while the deciduous forests offer the best habitat
for the larger grazing herbivores like the gaur and
deer (Nameer, Molur, and Walker 2001).
The other detailed published works on fauna
include Checklist of Mammals of India (Alfred
2002), Endemic Birds of India (Dasgupta et al.
2002) and Endemic Mammals of India, (Alfred
and Chakraborty 2002), Wroughtons Free Tailed
Bat (Ramakrishna et al. 2003), Validation of
Threatened Mammals of India (Alfred et al. 2006)
and Checklist of Indian Ungulates (Alfred and
De 2006) by the ZSI.
The Western Ghats is well known for its richness
in bird species. What has hit the avifauna seriously
and precipitously is the near total loss of the cir-
cling vultures that thermaled their way over the
crags and escarpments of the Western Ghats only
two decades ago. Diclophenac has seriously killed
off thousands of these important scavenging birds
within a very brief span of time.
Raptors are distinctly falling in numbers across
the northern ranges. However, this appears to be
the case across the country. Studies on pessarine
bird communities through ringing have not been
done for many years and thus quantified evidence
of their abundance is unavailable.
Many of these hill bIrds are common to the Hi-
malayas and are migrants that move southwards in
the Ghats during the winter. They also move lo-
cally up and down the Ghats from the plains to the
crestline forests seasonally. Nearly a third of In-
dias bird species are found in the Western Ghats.
Disturbances in the migrational movements, in-
creasing forest fragmentation with isolation of the
forest patches could be responsible for major losses
of avifauna in the near future.
Of all organisms, birds are the best studied in
the Western Ghats. Beginning in the 1860s, Brit-
ish naturalists and planters were busy surveying the
Western Ghats, collecting and describing the avi-
fauna. Subsequent surveys by the Bombay Natural
History Society (then led by Dr Salim Ali), the var-
ious State Departments of Forests, especially Ker-
ala, many nature clubs and amateur birdwatchers
have suggested that there are 508 species of birds,
of which a total of 324 species (64%) are resident.
These are predominantly land birds. Nineteen spe-
cies may be considered endemic to the Western
Ghats. For example, the most important pheasant
species are found only in the Western Ghats and
nowhere else.
Few endemic species have been observed to ex-
tend north of Goa. In general, the endemic bird
species of the Western Ghats are primarily birds of
the rainforests and of the higher elevations of sho-
la-grassland complexes. Locally, when equal areas
are compared, there are more species of birds per
unit area in the central parts of the Western Ghats.
This is primarily due to mixing of migrants and
generalist species of birds with the resident special-
ists and endemics. Although they provide habitat
to a number of specialists and endemic birds with
greater conservation value, wet evergreen forests
and montane sholas are comparatively less diverse
in bird species than secondary or disturbed ever-
green and moist deciduous forests (Daniels 2001).
Padhye et al. describe season and landscape ele-
ment wise changes in community structure of
Tamhini in the northern Western Ghats. The study
area is a typical semi-evergreen forest patch where
degradation has altered the landscape substantially
over the last 3 or 4 decades (Padhye et al. 2007).
The authors demonstrate two peaks due to migra-
tion, breeding, food availability and vegetation
changes. A major peak was in early winter as mi-
grants move south and another in spring as they
move back northwards. The species richness in
shifting cultivation sites, scrubland and paddy
lands, was higher than in evergreen forest, stream
banks and grassland. This suggests that while ever-
green patches in this fragmented habitat are impor-
tant for the rarer forest birds the patches of man-
modified systems are also important as they
support a diversity of generalist species.
157 species of reptiles including the crocodile
Crocodylus palustris are known from the Western
Ghats. Majority of the reptile species are snakes.
In all 97 species, representing 36 genera (2 genera
of turtle/tortoise, 20 snake, 14 lizard) are endemic.
Endemism is highest amongst snakes, especially
with the family Uropeltidae alone contributing 33
species. Amongst lizards, dwarf geckoes (Cnemas-
pis spp) and skinks (Ristella, Lygosoma, Mabuya
and Scincella) have the maximum number of en-
demic species (Daniels 2001).
Unlike other groups this group has a limited
number of published works. An earthsnake, Uro-
peltis macrolepis (Peters) from Mahabaleshwar,
Satara District which differed from the descriptions
in the old and new faunas, not only in the presence
of an unbroken line but also in the scalation was
identified in 1955 by V. K. Chari (Chari 1955). The
state of taxonomy of Uropeltis snakes has been
studied by Gower et al. from the Western Ghats of
Maharashtra. They have demonstrated the distri-
bution of a species that is known only from Bhi-
mashankar and Fangul Gawhan which are 30 km
apart (Gower, Captain, and S. S Thakur 2008).
A new ground dwelling gecko has been described
from plateau tops in the northern Western Ghat of
Maharashtra. Hemidactylus species of Gekkoni-
dae have extremely restricted ranges though they
cover wide expanses of geographical area. The
habitat in which it was described consists of a de-
graded plateau top with wind mills and electric
poles near Satara (Giri and Bauer 2008). New spe-
cies are still being discovered in the northern West-
ern Ghats and there could be several other undis-
covered ones. Giri et al. describe a new ground
dwelling gecko from the Northern Western Ghat
near Kolhapur in 2009. A typical feature is the un-
usal occurrence of an iridescent tail not seen in
geckos (Giri, Bauer, and Gaikwad 2009).
The Northern Western Ghats remain largely un-
explored for herpetological values but with more
field work being undertaken the knowledge of spe-
cies level diversity is on the rise. Three new species
of caecilians and two lizards have been described
in recent years (Giri, Aaron Bauer, and Gaikwad
2009). This gives further importance for creating
ESAs as there are likely to be many other species
with limited ranges that are not found in other
parts further south.
Over three fourths of the amphibia found in the
Western Ghats are endemic to this small biogeo-
graphic zone. Of the 224 amphibia found in In-
dia 121 (60%) are present in the Western Ghat of
which 89 are endemic to this biogeographic region
The 121 species fall under 24 genera, six families
and two orders. The family ranidae (true frogs) has
the largest number of species (49) amounting to
42% of the amphibian fauna of the Western Ghats.
There is a remarkable diversity of caecilians in the
Western Ghats. 16 out of 20 species known in In-
dia occur in the Western Ghats; all 16 being en-
demic (Daniels 2001).
Species that are unique to the Western Ghat
such as caecilians and the frog Nasikabatrachus sahy-
adryensis are fairly recent discoveries indicating the
need for more taxonomic research in the northern
Western Ghat. This unique frog has been placed
in a new family and is said to be allied to frogs in
Seychelles and Madagascar.
Daniels described the amphibians of the West-
ern Ghat in 1992. The paper shows that the West-
ern Ghats of India are very rich in amphibian spe-
cies with 117 species of frogs, toads and caecilians.
Eighty-nine species are endemic to this biogeo-
graphical region. Analysis of ranges and patterns
of geographical distribution of amphibians on the
Western Ghats suggest that the southern half of
the Western Ghats and the low-medium elevation
hills are more diverse in species than the northern
half and higher hills. This is attributed to the more
widespread rainfall and the less variable climatic
conditions in the south. About half the species are
apparently localized. Of those, species with wider
ranges, a majority show patchy distribution. Spe-
cies preferring the moist evergreen forests as habi-
tats tend to have a highly patchy and fragmented
distributions. This appears to be a result of habitat
destruction and fragmentation and isolation. The
overall patterns of species richness and local ende-
mism are rather different from those of the angio-
sperms and birds. In birds and angiosperms, a sig-
nificant proportion of endemics are found on the
higher hills. On the contrary, endemic amphibian
species are found in the lower altitudinal range of
0-1000 m, with a majority between 800 and 1000 m
(Daniels 1992).
There have been several studies doen on amphib-
ians in the Northern Western Ghats especially Ma-
harahstra. Bhatta has developed a field guide for
Western Ghats caecilians in 1998 (Bhatta 1998).
Pillai and Ravichandran have created a taxonom-
ic study of the amphibians of India in 2005 (Pil-
lai, Ravichandran, and Zoological Survey of In-
dia 2005). Dinesh et al. have made an annotated
checklist of Amphibia of India published by ZSI
in 2009 according to which of the 284 species of
amphibians that are from India, 132 are endemic
to Western Ghats (Dinesh et al. 2009)
In Amboli Ghat a new toad Xanthophryne tige-
rinus was identified in 2009 (Biju et al. 2009), In
2004 Giri et al. discovered a new caecilid caeci-
lian from Khandala Lonavala (Giri, Gower, and
Wilkinson 2004). The region that comprises the
Northern Western Ghat is thus recognized as an
important center of diversity of these little known
limbless, snakelike caecilian amphibians (Gower
et al. 2007). Pillai and Ravi Chandran identified
four endemic species of caecilids (Ravichandran,
Gower, and Wilkinson 2003).
Dahanukar and Padhye have described amphibi-
an diversity and distribution at Tamhini ghat at the
boarder of Pune and Ratnagiri Districts. This is a
zone that will be increasingly disturbed by urban-
ization and road transport in the Mulshi Taluka.
This study done in 1997-2000 provides a base line
study documenting 23 species, of which eight were
restricted to only 3 sites, 5 were partly distributed
in 3-7 sites. The rest were continuously spread.
Spatial distribution of frogs showed a nested bio-
diversity in the Western Ghat. It showed a higher
species richness in the south, a decrease of species
at higher elevations and an increase in number in
relation to an increase in tree species (Dahanukar
and Padhye 2005)
Another new species of caecilidae was identified
in Bondla Wildlife Sanctuary in Goa in 2004 (Bhat-
ta and Prashanth 2004). In between the years 2000
and 2007 four new species of caecilians were dis-
covered (Bhatta et al. 2007).
There are around 218 species of primary and
secondary freshwater fishes in the Western Ghats.
53% of all fish species (116 species in 51 genera) in
the Western Ghats are endemic (Daniels 2001). A
review of literature shows while there have been
a few publications, a lot of work still needs to be
A Checklist of Freshwater Fishes of India by
AGK Menon appeared from the Zoological Sur-
vey of India (ZSI) in 1999 (Menon 1999). A book
on the Deccan Mahseer was published by Jayaram
in 2005 (Jayaram 2005). Yadav published Ichthyo
fauna of the northern Western Ghat in 2003 (Ya-
dav 2003)
Distribution, endemism and threat status of
freshwater fishes in the Western Ghats of India
has been reviewed (Dahanukar, R. Raut, and Bhat
2004). From literature review the paper records
288 species belonging to 12 orders, 41 families and
109 genera, of which 118 species are endemic and
51 are unique. However, the species accumulation
curve showed that there might be 345 species in
this region, indicating that 16% species have not
been recorded.
An analysis of the distribution pattern of fishes
in the Western Ghats suggests that the southern re-
gion is more diverse than the northern and central
regions. The southern region shows high endemism
and high uniqueness while the northern region
shows high endemism but less uniqueness. The
similarity index between the zones indicates that
as the distance between the zones increases similar-
ity decreases. The status of 105 of 288 species was
not known due to data deficiency but among the
remaining 183 species, 58 species were categorized
as low risk, 41 as vulnerable, 54 as endangered, 24
as critically endangered while the remaining six
species were introduced.
The paper concludes that the distribution pat-
terns of fishes in the Western Ghats is in accor-
dance with the geography of Western Ghats, its
climatic conditions and Satpura Hypothesis.
The threat status of fishes found in Western
Ghats suggests that at least 41% of fish fauna is
threatened by either being vulnerable, endangered
or critically endangered.
Studies by Kharat et al. investigated changes in
species diversity of riverine fish fauna in North
western Ghats. This was done using five faunal
checklists spread over the last six decades. Though
the fish species diversity of Mula-Mutha river ap-
pears to be constant, loss of endemic and native
species and their replacement with introduced spe-
cies is a serious threat. Besides heavy harvest, an-
thropogenic activities like dam construction, habi-
tat destruction, biological and chemical pollution
in the Mula -Mutha rivers are assumed to be re-
sponsible for the loss of over 30 native fish species
during the last 60 years. They suggest that apart
from pollution heavy harvesting, introductions of
exotic fish are contributory causes in their pres-
ence in four dams that limit fish movement thus
accounting for their presence only in extreme up-
stream areas. One of the major losses has been the
complete local extinction of the Mahseer that was
found well into the 1950s. Conservation measures
include pollution management, controlled harvest-
ing of fish and artificial breeding (Kharat et al.
2003). The Tata Power Company Mahseer breed-
ing center initiated by Mr. Shashank Ogale has
been running a highly successful breeding program
and has performed major reintroduction into their
lakes and natural ponds.
A study by Bhat has stressed that very little is
known about freshwater species distributions in
the Central Western Ghat. Four rivers, Sharavati,
Aghanashini, Bedti and Kali, of the central West-
ern Ghats were studied for their fish diversity and
composition. A total species richness of 92 spe-
cies (and an endemicity of 25%) was reported. A
comparison of expected species richness estimates
using different statistical estimators was made
these showed the expected species richness to be
in the range of 92120 species. Many of the spe-
cies were found to be shared with those belonging
to the southern Western Ghats, but the study also
unearthed new findings in terms of description of
a new species and extension of the known distri-
bution range of some of the species. The study at
varying spatial and temporal scales also showed
that while the rivers are very similar to each oth-
er in terms of the species richness values, they do
vary with respect to the species composition. Spe-
cies compositions across upper (or lower) reaches
of these rivers were found to be more similar to
one another than the upstream and downstream
reaches in the same river. Temporal patterns, with
regard to diurnal activity of fishes were studied.
These showed that of the 72 species collected at
night, 29 were exclusive to night sampling. Though
much of the information of the feeding and habitat
preferences of the fishes in this region is lacking,
it is speculated that the differences in their activity
patterns could be related to feeding and predator
avoidance (Bhat 2003).
Macro and microhabitat analyses were applied
to characterise the fish assemblage structure in ten
streams of the Western Ghat mountains of Penin-
sular India. Macrohabitat features, such as chan-
nel gradient, stream depth, stream width, riparian
cover, instream cover, habitat types and substrates,
were used. Microhabitat requirements of the abun-
dant cyprinids (35 species) were also analysed.
Macrohabitat assessment indicated that high habi-
tat diversity was associated with a high species di-
versity, and that habitat volume was a major deter-
mining factor for species diversity and abundance.
In all streams, cyprinids were the dominant group
in the assemblage and almost all cyprinids were
confined to pools with varied habitat diversity.
Riffle dwelling species included ancient forms such
as Glyptothorax madraspatnum, G. trewasae and
Homaloptera santhamparaiensis. Suitable micro-
habitats for dominant cyprinid species were pools
and riffle edges. Big-sized barbs and mahseers such
as Hypselobarbus dobsoni, H. curmuca, H. du-
bius, Labeo calbasu, Puntius sarana, Tor khudree
and Tor khudree malabaricus were confined to
deep pools with a large area. Smaller Puntius spe-
cies like P. fasciatus, P. melanampyx, P. narayani,
P. sophore, P. ticto and P. vittatus lived in shallow
backwater pools and pools with low flow. Species
like P. arulius tambiraparniei, P. amphibius, P. bi-
maculatus and P. filamentosus were found towards
shallow pools with moderate flow. Surface-dwell-
ing species such as Danio aequipinnatus, Rasbora
daniconius, Salmostoma spp. and Barilius spp. pre-
ferred deepwater habitats with high flow. Habitat-
based multivariate analysis revealed four guilds:
surface dwellers, column dwellers, generalized
bottom dwellers and specialized bottom dwellers
(Arunachalam 2000).
The Northern Western Ghats have approximate-
ly 80 species of food fish, 25 species of aquarium
fish and 32 species of larvivorous fish which could
possibly be used in bio-control of malaria. It is
thus evident that maintainenece of natural rivers
with respect to quality and quantity of water is cru-
cial to fish conservation in the Northern Western
Both day and night insect richness is a promi-
nent feature of the faunal diversity of the Western
Ghats. Their status in terms of abundance is diffi-
cult to assess. Several prominent butterflies appear
to be less common. Moths such as the Atlas and
Lunar Moths have decidedly become rarer in the
last decade or two.
Joshi and Dahanukar have studied the ecology
and diversity of centipedes in the Northern West-
ern Ghat. The species showed habitat and micro-
habitat preferences, feeding habitats and seasonal
variations. In the northern Western Ghat of the
102 species of centipede found in India 18 were
found in the study area. Open scrub was a pre-
ferred habitat type.
Butterflies in the Western Ghats belong to five
families, 166 genera and 330 species. Of these, 37
species are endemic. These 330 species of butter-
flies depend on over 1000 species plants for feeding
and breeding. Butterflies of India Red Data Book
was published in 2005 by ZSI (Gupta and Mondal
1994). Out of a total of 50,000 km2 of primary
forest in the Western Ghats, only 16% of primary
forest cover exists today. Being good indicators of
climatic conditions as well as seasonal and ecologi-
cal changes, butterflies can serve in formulating
strategies for conservation. Butterfly visibility gives
these insects an important place as an indicator of
change in habitats if done repeatedly by using the
same methodology over several years. Single as-
sessments however have a rather limited note ex-
cept in comparing their abundance in different
landscape elements (Padhye et al. 2006).
Subramanian studied spiders of the Western
Ghat in the 1950s. The author describes the Tet-
ragnathidae and Argiopidae, with which the paper
deals, are two large families of web-weaving spiders
under Arachnomorphae. In these families there are
several curious genera which present great varia-
tion in size, shape coloration and habits. Some spe-
cies are so small that they cannot be studied with-
out a lens. On the other hand there is a well known
gaint spider, Nephila maculata whose body length
measures more than two inches. Most of the mem-
bers weave plain, circular snares suspended verti-
cally, obliquely, or horizontally among plants and
shrubs or between branches of trees (Subramanian
Kunte (1997) work on butterflies in northern
Western Ghats (India), describes four tropical hab-
itats with different disturbance levels which were
monitored for diversity and seasonal patterns in
butterfly communities. Species richness was high-
est in late monsoon and early winter. Majority of
the butterfly species also showed abundance peaks
in these seasons. Fire played a significant role in
determining species composition in fire-afflicted
areas and affected flight periods of some species
but did not affect species richness. Grazing had a
major impact on species composition and it fa-
voured only those Lycaenids and Nymphalids
whose caterpillars feed on herbs. Kunte identifies
seasonal patterns in butterfly, abundance and spe-
cies in four tropical habitats in the northern West-
ern Ghat with different pressures such as fires and
grazing. The four sites are along the western slopes
of the Ghats in the Pune region. Populations be-
gan to rise in the monsoon and peaked in the late
monsoon with a second peak in winter. In case of
one of the sites where phenophases of the larval
foodplant and population trend of a small Lycae-
nid was documented, the population showed rapid
increase at the time when the plants were in suit-
able phenophase for growth of the caterpillars. The
author proposes a possible evolutionary interaction
between herb-feeding and non-herb-feeding Lycae-
nids (Kunte 1997) .
A few studies in the Western Ghats have paid
attention to aquatic invertebrates including mol-
luscs. During the early 1980s, a study of aquatic
insects in the Nilgiris indicated that human inter-
ference in the upper Nilgiris has apparently reduced
the diversity of species in seemingly undisturbed
areas as Silent Valley. Habitat loss and pollution in
Pune city have been attributed as reasons for the
decline of aquatic insects and molluscs.
Limited range species such as the Malabar Giant
Squirrel, pangolin, mouse deer, etc. and a variety
of birds, reptiles and amphibian in the Northern
Western Ghats have been inadequately studied
to develop habitat optimization through strategic
management of patch size, corridors etc.
The status of several species in northern West-
ern Ghats requires detailed evaluation to support
ESAs. This not only will require floristic evalua-
tions based on geoinformatics but the use of Con-
servation Assessment and Management Planning
(CAMP), Workshops for selected species (Singh
and Kaumanns 2005).
These sub regional differences are further ex-
emplified by more locale specific observations on
plant communities and forest structure. The veg-
etation patterns of the catchment areas of dams
in the Mawal and Mulshi Talukas were assessed
for their species abundance and richness of tree
species. Each catchment differed substantially in
structural and species characteristics. Several spe-
cies were unique to a single catchment or even a
section of the catchment area (BVIEER 1998).
The PAs include 3 National Parks and 15 Wild-
life Sanctuaries in the three states of Gujarat, Ma-
harashtra and Goa in which the northern sector of
the Ghats are situated. Gujarat and Maharashtra
rank among the top five states in terms of PA cov-
erage. In the Western Ghats the PAs include Purna
Wildlife Sanctuary, and Vansda National Park in
Gujarat, while Kalsubai Wildlife Sanctuary, Bhi-
mashankar Wildlife Sanctuary, Koyna National
Park, Chandoli Wildlife Sanctuary (proposed Na-
tional Park) and Radhanagri Wildlife Sanctuary in
Maharashtra are situated along the crest and slopes
of the Western Ghats in Maharashtra. In Maha-
rashtra the Protected Areas that extend into the
coastal belt include Tansa Wildlife Sanctuary, San-
jay Gandhi National Park (Borivali) and Phansad
Wildlife Sanctuary while those that extend into the
Deccan Plateau are the potential PAs of Mulshi
and Mawal talukas which were discussed frequent-
ly but were never formally notified. Some of these
PAs extend from the coastal plains into the West-
ern escarpment. Others include forests between
catchment areas of dams along the eastern spurs
that slope into the Deccan.
The following section provides an overview of
the status of Protected Areas and their surrounds.
Purna Wildlife Sanctuary
The Purna Wildlife Sanctuary includes 200 km2
of forests in several patches with the best patches
of natural vegetation occurring in Mahal and Bar-
ipada. The 10 km Ecologically Sensitive Zone un-
der EPA is a key to developing a viable corridoring
system between Bansda National Park and the
Purna Wildlife Sanctuary and neighbouring Re-
serve Forest patches.
Bansda National Park
The Bansda National Park once the private prop-
erty of the Maharaja of Vansda was acquired by
the Government of Gujarat in 1972 for a paltry
sum of Rs. 10 lakh. The 24.5 km2 area contained
some of the most valuable residual mature teak in
Gujarat. It still contains viable populations of leop-
ard, chital, barking deer and an abundance of bird-
life. The flagship, rarely seen species is the Rusty
Spotted Cat that has been observed on several oc-
casions since 1988.
The pale coloured squirrel, once found in the Dangs is
now probably extinct. The darker squirrel is found from
Bhimashankar to Lonavala.
Sanjay Gandhi National Park
This Sanjay Gandhi National Park (10307 ha),
Tungareshwar Wildlife Sanctuary (8750 ha) and
Reserve forests between them constitute an IBA. It
is partly located in the Mega Meteropolitan, Mum-
bai. The PA constitutes the prime catchment area
of two freshwater lakes, Tulsi and Vihar, which
supply water to Mumbai city. The forest here is
classified as Tropical Dry deciduous or the South-
ern Dry Deciduous according to Champion and
Seth (1968).
Nearly 300 species of birds have been identified,
cluding some threatened ones. The park lies in
the Western Ghats Endemic Bird Area (EBA 123)
where Statterfield et al.(1998) have identified 16 re-
stricted range species. The important avifauna seen
here include the Oriental White-backed Vulture,
Long-billed Vulture, Pallass Fish-Eagle, Greater
Spotted Eagle, Lesser Adjuctant, Nilgiri Wood-
Pigeon, Emerald Dove, Drongo-cuckoo, Malabar
Trogon, Three-toed Kingfisher and the Yellow-
backed Sunbird. The PA includes 59 species of
mammals, 155 species of butterflies, 24 species of
ants, 52 species of reptiles, 13 species of amphib-
ians and 30 species of fishes. The important mam-
mals found here include the Leopard, Common
langur, Rhesus Macaque, Wild boar, Chital, Sam-
bar, Barking Deer, four-horned Antelope and the
Mouse Deer. Reptiles such as the Pond Terrapin,
Deccan Banded Gecko, Spotted Forest Gecko are
also seen here.
Illegal tree felling, man-animal conflict, en-
croachment, illegal styone quarries, firewood col-
lection, poaching, tourism, and presence of anti-
social elements are the major threats faced by the
In order to ensure long-term viability of Sanjay
Gandhi National Park and Tungreshwar Wildlife
Sanctuary, it is extremely important to protect the
reserve forest lying between them.
Tansa Wildlife Sanctuary
This sanctuary is of great relevance to the sur-
vival of Mumbai city as it supplies water for the
people of the city. The sanctuary primarily consists
of dry deciduous and moist deciduous forest. Its
wildlife values are relatively low.
Kalsubai (Harishchandragad) Wildlife Sanctuary
The Protected Area is the northernmost sanctu-
ary in the Western Ghats of Maharashtra. Its for-
ests are highly fragmented, both due to topographic
and edaphic features.
Bhimashankar Wildlife Sanctuary
It is well known for highly endangered subspe-
cies of the Indian Giant Squirrel locally known as
Shekru. This is an IBA.
Gole (2000) listed over 172 bird species in the
Sanctuary including several globally threatened
and restricted range species. The site falls in the
Western Ghat Endemic Bird Area (Stattersfield
et al. 1998). The Nilgiri Wood-Pigeon, a global-
ly threatened and restricted range species of the
Western Ghats (Birdlife Internation 2001) gener-
ally arrives in February and can be seen/heard till
the break up of the monsoon in end June (Gole
2000). It leaves the high rainfall plateau during the
monsoon to reappear in winter. Its arrival is also
dependent on the fruiting season. The Blue-winged
Parakeet and Plum-headed Parakeet also visit the
Sanctuary from late winter onwards.
The Malabar Grey Hornbill an endemic species,
is generally found below the plateau on the Konk-
an side and not observed in the plateau, while the
Yellow-browed Bulbul a biome species, and White-
bellied Blue-flycatcher an endemic species are hill
species and seldom seen below 620 m(Gole 2000).
Small Sunbird another endemic of the Northern
Western Ghats has good resident population in this
IBA. One of the most interesting winter visitors to
this site is the Tytlers Leaf Warbler a bird of the
Western Himalaya (Ali and Ripley 1987, Grim-
mett et al. 1998). It has good population of the
Grey-fronted or Pampador Green Pigeon. The im-
portant fauna found here include Leopard, Sam-
bar, Barking Deer, Wild Boar, Common Langur,
Rhesus Macaque and Mouse Deer, Striped Hyena,
Golden Jackal and the Indian Pangolin. The lan-
duse pattern includes wilderness as well use of
land for tourism and recreation, transport, re-
search, livestock grazing and agriculture.
Issues such as tourism, lLivestock grazing, man-
animal conflicts, fuel wood gathering, agriculture
intensification and expansion, commercial devel-
opment and plastic consumption by animals are
some of the major threats to this PA.
Phansad Wildlife Sanctuary
This is the only important coastal protected area
in Maharashtra. It was once the shooting reserve
of the rulers of Janjira. The forest has evergreen
and semi-evergreen elements with areas of grass-
land and small rocky plateaus. The floristic values
are considered to be very important as there is no
other sanctuary along the coast of Maharashtra.
Koyna Wildlife Sanctuary
The Chandoli corridor connects this sanctuary
to Radhanagari Wildlife Sanctuary in the South.
Historically the Vasota fort constructed in during
1178-1193 lies in the Center of the Sactuary. The
PA has Southern Tropical Evergreen Forest and
Southern Moist Mixed decidous Forest as per the
classification of Champion and Seth (1968). The
Sanctuary hosts a threatened tree species called
Narkya Mappia foetida. Tiger, Gaur, Indian Wild
Dog, Sloth Bear, Sambar, Barking Deer, Mouse
Deer, Indian Giant Squirrel and Common otter are
some of the important mammals found here. The
PA is also home to the Indian Python, Beddomes
Keelback, Indian Chameleon, Banded Gecko and
Dwarf Gecko among reptiles and endemic am-
phibians such as the Koyana Toad, Indotyphlus, a
caecilian, Wrinkled Frog and Bombay Frog. The
land use here is primarily wilderness, agriculture
with a hydroelectric project. Dam construction,
hydroelectric project, poaching and exploitation of
medicinal plants are some of the threats to this PA.
At the peripheary of the Sanctuary, the area is
being actively promoted as a tourism zone by the
Government of Maharashtra. This would create
serious environmental problems in the form of
increased tourist traffic, water pollution, littering
of non-degradable waste and general disturbance.
Koyna is well-known trekking location. Aggressive
promotion of tourism in this area would increase
the garbage and noise pollution.
Chandoli National Park
This protected area has recently been upgraded
to a National Park status. Recently, there have been
a spate of sightings of tigers which has led to sug-
gestions to upgrade it to a Tiger Reserve. There
are also endemic and endangered species reported
from the Protected Area.
Radhanagari Wildlife Sanctuary
The Radhanagari Wildlife Sactuary is situated
on the border of Kolhapur and Sindhudurg dis-
tricts. The PA harbours several sacred groves inside
the Sanctuary which are traditionally protected by
local people. Thus large stands of virgin forest still
exist here. This sanctuary houses the major irriga-
tion projects in the Kolhapur district. Besides some
parts of sanctuary are rich in bauxite ore and many
plateaus with high quality bauxite have been
mined. The mining company wants more areas to
be opened for mining which is a major threat to
this fragile ecosystem.
The forest types are Southern Semi-evergreen,
Southern Moist Mixed Deciduous and Southern
evergreen. The vegetation includes several threat-
ened and endemic tree species such as Mappia
Foetida, Turpunia malbarica, Euphorbia longna,
Elaeocarpus tectorium and Harpullia arborea. It
lies in the Western Ghats Endemic Bird Areas
(EBA 123) where Stattersfield et al (1998) have
identified 16 restricted range species.
During winter, many Himalayan forest birds are
found here. Indian Blue Robin belonging to the Si-
no-Tropical Temperate Forest has been seen here.
Some interesting species such as Ceylon Frog-
mouth, Yellow-browed Bulbul, Dusky Eagle-owl,
Great Pied Hornbill, Black Bulbul, Speckled Picu-
let, and Malabar Crested Lark are commonly seen
INS Shivaji and Lonavala
The presence of this defence establishment,
spread over 1,500 acres, has protected some valu-
able original tropical moist/semi evergreen forest
and upland grass land habitats of the area against
growing urbanization and development.
The surrounding hills include good forest beyond
Khandala towards Dukes Nose hill. Extending to-
ward the Tigers Leap ravine along top of the ridg-
es, and upto 2 km on either side of the ridges is pro-
posed as an IBA. The area has evergreen and moist
deciduous type vegetation with a high diversity of
plant species. The carnivorous plant Utricularia sp.
which plays an important role in ecology and nitro-
gen cycle is a common plant found in small springs
here. Carvia callosa (Karvi) is a dominant plant
species on the hill slopes. Other tree species Careya
arborea (Kumbha), Memecylon umbellaum (An-
jani), Vitex nigundo (Nirgudi) and Randia dumeto-
rum are commonly found here. Nesting population
of the long billed Vulture, Gypes indisus, a critical
endangered species is found here. Eight out of 16
restricted range species of the Western Ghats En-
demic Bird Area are found here.
Leopard and Uropelttid snakes are also common
here. Many endangered amphibian species such as
the Bombay Bush frog, Humayuns wrinkled frog,
Nyctibacrachus humayuni, besides endangered
and endemic caecilians, inhabit the area (Varad
Giri pers.comm.).
Strategic presence of a defense establishment,
the Mumbai Pune corridor which is on fast track
to development continue to play havoc with the
original pristine habitats unless conservation mea-
sures are initiated at the earliest.
Bhagwan Mahavir Wildlife Sanctuary
Bhagwan Mahavir wildlife sanctuary located in
the Sanguem taluka on the eastern border of Goa
has a core area, consisting of 107 sq. km. which
was declared as Mollem National Park. National
highway 4A and Mormugao_Londa railway line
run through the sanctuary. Collem Railway station
lies within the sanctuary area.
Many small rivulets flow through the Sanctury
in the monsoon, but dry up in summer. Dudhsagar
falls is a popular tourist spot. The Devil Canyon
is a splendid piece of geological rock formation.
The canopy is almost closed and the availability of
grass is very limited. Evergreen vegetation is main-
ly seen in higher altitudes and along the riverbanks.
The main vegetation types are West Coast Tropical
Evergreen Forest, West Coast semi-Evergreen For-
est and Moist Deciduous Forest.
The Malabar Pied Hornbill and the Indian Black
woodpecker or White-bellied woodpecker can be
seen in the most part of Sanctuary. According to
Harvey DSouza the Nilgiri wood-pigeon, Blue-
winged parakeet, Malabar Gray Hornbill and
small Sunbird are present in this IBA. These birds
are listed as Restricted Range by Statersfield et al
(1998) under the Western Ghats Endemic Bird Ar-
eas 123. This PA has excellent wet evergreen, semi-
evergreen and moist deciduous forest.
The Leopard, Gaur, Barking deer, Mouse deer
are also found here. Other important mammals of
the site are Pangolin, Slender loris, porcupine, and
small Indian Civet.
Mhadei Wildlife Sanctuary
This is an IBA site named after the river Mha-
dei (Mandovi) which is considerd the lifeline of
Goa. The forest type range from moist deciduous,
semi-evergreen and secondary scrub. The annual
rainfall is 3,000 mm. This IBA site is of great cul-
tural significance as most of the sacred groves of
Goa are located in this region. The sacred grove
Nirankarachi is dominated by a unique plant spe-
cies Myristica malabarica, which is endangered
and endemic to the site. More than 45 species of
snakes are known to occur in the region. The thick
forests of Mhadei provide an ideal habitat for aga-
mids, skinks and geckos. There are also confirmed
reports of the presence and movement of tigers in
the area. The Atlas Moth is also recorded here.
Deforestion, poaching and encroachment are
major threats here. Exrensive habitat degradation
and loss are a constant problem at the site. Alter-
ing the habitat structure has resulted in reduction
in abundance and range of several bird species. In
this ecologically rich area, the Karnataka Govern-
ment has planned a chain of seven diversion dams
and three main dams for the Mhadei Hydroelectric
Another grave danger comes from open-cast
mining. There are about 40 mining leases, of which
only 11 mines are active, while others are not work-
ing. The miners lease owners want the potential
mining areas to be excised from the Sanctuary.
Cotigao Wildlife Sanctuary
The Cotigao Wildlife Sanctuary at the southern-
most tip of Goa protects a remote and vulnerable
area of forest lining the Goa-Karnataka interstate
border. The main vegetation type is the West Coast
Tropical Evergreen Forest, West Coast semi-Ever-
green forest and Moist Deciduous forest. The Ever-
green forests are mainly present on higher altitudes
and on riversides.
The site lies in the Western Ghats and has listed
16 species as Restricted Range. The flying squir-
rel is present here alongwith the slender loris and
pangolin but difficult to see due to their nocturnal
habit. The small Indian civet and the golden Jackal
are the smaller predators here. Cotigao has many
species of interesting reptiles, including the King
Kobra but not much is known about them. Simi-
larly, the freshwater fish have not been adequately
surveyed here.
Carambolim Lake
Carambolim Lake lies in Ilhas taluka, about 12
kms from Panjim, the capital of Goa. The main
vegetation consists of Nymphea stelleata, a root-
ed plant with floating leaves, Oryza rufipogon,
an emergent wild paddy, and submerged Hydrilla
verticillata. Carambolim lake attracts thousands of
birds, especially waterflowl.
Close to Carambolim lake, at Corlim (Tiswadi),
is located Swiss-owned Hindustan Ciba Geigy
Ltd (HCGL) factory which produces highly toxic
pesticides for agriculture use. The large factory
compound contains two shallow ponds that give
undisturbed shelter to Goas only known heronry,
and a safe haven to quite a number of migrant and
vagrant Ciconidae and Threskiornithidae (Lainer
One of the biggest threats faced by Carambolim
Lake was the construction of the railway track of
the Konkan Railway Project very close to the lake
and increasing disturbance due to urbanization.
The long-term and irreversible disturbance is
from private encroachment, night soil generated
from the migrant human population, and the silt
deposition, leading to the development of marshy
conditions.Carambolim lake need to be protected
under the new category of Community Reserve in
the modified Indian wildlife (Protection) Act.
he northern sector of the Western Ghats
has not been given sufficient conservation
attention over the years. All the attention
has been concentrated in the south while the for-
ests of the Ghats sections of Gujarat, Maharash-
tra and Goa have been continually degraded. No
effort at an overall protective strategy or attempt
to reverse the degradation has been attempted in
this section of the Ghats. The southern sector has
a large number of PAs which are relatively close
to each other and have been protected even across
state boundaries. In the northern states there are
large unprotected or inadequately protected sec-
tions that have isolated the PAs from each other.
The Western Ghats in Gujarat, Maharashtra and
Goa have been subjected to greater impacts of
rapid industrial growth than the southern sector of
Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu.
Threats can be intrinsic to the area or extend
from its periphery, or even from a distant site. The
threats include a wide spectrum of human activi-
ties of different intensities. These impacts disturb
the ecosystem as a whole or inflict their influence
on a single landscape element.
Gujarat has initiated a program of neo indus-
trialization which borders on the catena of the
Ghats and spreads into the periphery of the Dangs.
Gujarats industries are now an emerging threat to
both the sensitive coastal and hill ecosystems in the
state. It has been estimated that 1,782 km2 of for-
est area in Gujarat (12% of the current total forest
area of the state) was lost between 1960 and 2000
as a result of irrigation projects, agriculture, min-
ing, road building, industry and the legalisation of
encroachments (Trivedi and Soni 2006)
Maharashtra was one of the earliest States that
rapidly developed its industrial capability, as a re-
sult of its proximity to Mumbai which is consid-
ered to be the business centre of the country. The
unsustainable levels of industrial development
around Mumbai and its link-city of Pune thus
led to rapid urbanization and industrialization to
the West and East of the Ghats section in Karjat,
Lonawala, Mulshi and Mawal Talukas. This trend
has now inevitably spread to Maharashtras second
level townships such as Nashik, Kolhapur, Sangli
and Satara with their sugarcane based industries
that are now diversifying into other sectors.
The various state industrial development corpo-
rations are strong supporters of industrial develop-
ment in the rural sector. Several of Maharashtras
MIDCs, with their concomitant urbanization, dot
the landscape which was once a mix of rural and
wilderness areas, within and adjacent to the Ghats.
These centres are growing as a consequence of
easy access to cheap unskilled rural labour, water
that comes from the forested Ghats sector, energy
from the hydel dams and expansion of the road
transport sector in Maharashtra, such as, for exam-
ple, the Pirangut Industrial Estate.
In Goa, the mining and tourism industries have
severely impacted the integrity of its ecologically
diverse landscape elements.
The hydro based energy sector in the Ghats is
dependent on east flowing rivers, which are within
the Ghats. The dams and their lakes segregate the
forests into multiple isolated patches that create a
discontinuity in the habitat making it impossible
for many species to cross the water spread. Most
of these waterspreads span across the eastern val-
leys while their backwaters cut into the forested
slopes of the Ghats, thus fragmenting and isolating
forested regions into smaller patches. There are
hardly any large valleys in Maharashtra that have
remained intact.
The intactness of the narrow forested strip of the
fragile Western Ghats in this region is threatened
by landscape level changes due to ports and other
development projects in the adjacent coastal belt
and by the sugar and heavy industries developed
through irrigation and water availability on the
eastern aspect in the Deccan Plateau.
Name of
Protected Area
MIDC Areas
Possible Impact
Possible Impact
Saw Mills Mining
Water Air
Water Air
Forging &
High Mod. Shahapur Nil
Nil Nil Info. NA Info. NA
Karnala Bird
Rasaini Chemicals
and Dyes
High High
Chemicals and
High High Info. NA
Stone Quarry
Phansad WLS Roha Moderate Moderate Chemical Mod. Mod. Phansad
Stone Quarry,
Mazgaon Phansad
Koyna WLS Nil Nil Info. NA Info. NA
Chandoli WLS Nil
Sugar Factory
Low Info. NA Info. NA
Bison WLS
Shiroli, Shirgaon Low Sugar Factory Mod. Info. NA
INDOL, Bauxite
Sanjay Gandhi NP
Marol, ITC and
Kalwa, Thane,
High High High
Chemical Forging,
Dairy, Textiles,
Dyes, Tanneries,
Domestic Waste
High High High Info. NA
Stone Quarry
along the
Impact Colour
High Moderate Low Nil
Mangrove ecosystems in Maharashtra are under
heavy pressure as a result of increase in human ac-
tivity with their area being reduced, and thus some
important species are becoming extinct (Mulik and
Bhosale 1989). The threat to mangroves has since
become more severe even though it should have
been reduced by the Coastal Regulation Zone and
increasing awareness. The same situation applies
to the Western Ghats unless the planning and im-
plementation of sustainably managed ESAs does
not reduce the threat to this fragile forest ecosys-
Industrialisation has occurred most rapidly in
Shahapur and Wada near Tansa; roha and murud
near Phansad; Radhanagari and Gargoti near Rad-
hanagari Sanctuary. The industrial development
is a reponse to the states strong Maharahstra In-
dusrial Development Corporation (MIDC). San-
jay Gandhi National Park, Karnala Bird Sanctu-
ary, Phansad Wildlife Sanctuary have one or more
MIDCs within the 10 km ESAs around PAs.
These industries lead to variable elvels of air, water
and noise pollution and environment management
problems due to indusrial and even toxic solid
waste affecting lichens, fish populations causing
disruption of aquatic ecosystems. Species such as
the Deccan Mahseet once common in these rivers is
extinct throughout the rivers of Maharsahtra. The
small and large scale industries also lead to loss of
spill over habitats for wildlife and produce impacts
on the seclusion required for wildlife to breed suc-
cessfully. This is a result of increasing movement
of people both through and around the PA. Saw-
mills create problems as frequently illegally felled
timber is easily processed at a mill that is the vicin-
ity of a PA. There are saw mills near Tansa Wild-
life Sanctuary at Shahapur and near Phansad.
The industrial use of raw material from mined
areas within the Ghats is a serious impact factor
on local biodiversity. Consumerism is the driving
force and the forest is its victim. Mined areas cre-
ate large gaps which are left as blanks covered in
weedy growth. While mitigation is expected to re-
habilitate and restore these areas this is generally
carried out inadequately. Most abandoned mined
areas are left for years and are covered by exotic
weedy growth that can support only the general-
ist species of fauna. The mined blanks thus lead
to severe impediments for many species to move
between patches of forest.
In Maharashtra, the major impacts among the
PAs surrounds is due to stone quarrying in the
ESAs. Therre are also impacts due to bauxite and
other mining operations. Major mining conces-
sions lead to serious impacts on conservation val-
ues leading to serious conflict issues during land-
scape level lanning and is a serious concern for the
future. A major problem that constantly recurs is
due to the major mining potential at Radhanagari
WLS. This is a serious concern as there is a con-
stant pressure to open this area to mining (Bharu-
cha, 2006).
The Dangs have a better road network than ten
years ago, with almost all the villages having mo-
torable roads. Most fo the forest roads till 2000
were unpaved. The negative effect of the growing
road network is that the Reserved Fores patches
which did nto have motorable access till about ten
years ago are now highly accessible. This can be
disastrous in the Dangs, especially a illegal timber
extractors can now access certain remote areas.
There is also a growing threat of unsustainable
tourism spreading from Saputara.
The need to link these two economic develop-
ment zones (coastal zone and the Deccan Pla-
teau) has led to more roads traversing the Ghats
section to move goods and business services. The
quantum of industrial products developed in Ma-
harashtras industrial belts has grown enormously
and is dependent mainly on constructing shortcut
new roads, often without a proper analysis of the
real needs of the industrial sector. The plans are
frequently an outcome of local political pressures.
The widening of existing roads, to reach the ports
is another persistent demand without a proper as-
sessment. An example is the road that connects
Pune from the Deccan Plateau to Mahad on the
coast via the Western Ghats in Mulshi Taluka of
Pune district, effectively fragmenting the forests of
the Western Ghats in this region.
The gaps between PAs are traversed by several
Name of Protected
Road ((I) = Inside, (O)= Outside) Type
Length of roads
Railway Lines (length)
Inside Within 10 km Total
Tansa Mumbai-Agra NH-3 40 40 Kalyan-Nashik (50 km)
Murbad-Vada (I) SH-38 9 25 34
Shahapur-Javhar (I) SH-36 10 15 25
Murbad-Vada (I) Pakka Road 6 22 28
Javhar-Khardi Pakka Road 15 15
Palghar-Nashik (I) SH-34 8 27 25
Total 32 144
Bhimashankar Ahupe-Ambegaon (I) Pakka Rd. 3 13 16 Nil
Ahemadnagar-Karjat (I) (O) SH-37 32 24 24
Ahupe-Nigdale (I) Pakka Rd. 12 12
Bhimashankar-Rajgurunagar (I) SH-54 4 11 15
Total 19 48
Karnala Mumbai-Goa (I) NH-17 2 24 26 Panvel-Uran (14.6 km)
Pune-Panvel (O) NH-4 0 19 19 Konkan Railway Line (34. 6 km)
Panvel-Aware (O) Pakka Road 0 25 25
Total 2 68
Phansad Murud-Alibag (O) MSH-4 28 28 Nil
Murud-Roha (I) SH-90 2 5 6
Murud-Roha (O) SH-92 18 18
Alibagh-Roha (I) Pakka Road
Total 2 51
Koyna Karad-Chiplun (I) SH-78 0 42 42 Nil
Patan-Jalu (I) Pakka Road 0 14 14
Morgiri- Dicholi (O) Pakka Road 14 22 36
Mahableshwar-Vasota (O) Pakka Road 38 11 48
Mahableshwar-Satara (I) Pakka Road 0 46 46
Total 52 134
Chandoli WLS Karad-Sangameshwar (I) SH-78 27 40 67 Nil
Chiplun-Karad (O) SH-78 12 12
Kokisare-Humbarli (I)
-27 23 23
Sangameshwar-Kolhapur (O) MSH-3 0 26 26
Total 27 100
Radhanagari Kankawli-Kolhapur (right) (I) SH-116 33 32 65 Nil
Kankawli-Kolhapur (left) (I) Pakka Road 25 33 58
Radhanagari-Gawathanwadi (I) Pakka Road 10 12 22
Vaibhavwadi-Kolhapur (O) SH-115 0 15 15
Radhanagari-Sawantwadi (O) SH-120 0 57 57
Total 68 150
Sanjay Gandhi Borivali Mulund West (I) Pakka Road
8 2 10
Mumbai Ahmedabad (35
Goregaon Mulund West (I) Pakka Road 4 Mumbai Nashik (38 km)
Thane Vasai (I) SH-41 2 9 11
Mumbai-Agra (O) NH-8 41 41
Western Express Highway (O) 23 23
Mumbai-Ahmedabad (O) NH-3 37 37
135 110
Impact Colour Codes High Moderate Low Nil
existing highways, minor roads, and a major ex-
pressway between Mumbai and Pune. There are
proposals for several small roads to be widened and
there are demands for more roads across the Ghats.
The latter will increasingly isolate the patches of
natural forests in future. This will reduce the vi-
ability of potential corridors unless the areas are
notified as ESAs and mitigation measures such as
underpasses and over bridges are made for wildlife
to get across these gaps.
There are demands for more East-West roads to
link south bound highways in the Deccan to the
coastal highway. These new roads will continue to
create further fragmentation. Such roads cannot be
sanctioned on merely political grounds but must be
prioritized based on a balance of economic societal
and most importantly ecological considerations.
This brings in the need for sustainable land use
planning and judicious governance by involving
scientifically trained regional development plan-
ners for the whole Ghats section of these states. An
orientation on the ecological costs for road plan-
ning and the special requirements for constructing
roads along steep escarpments while considering
their future maintenance costs is a crucial concern.
Orienting road planners to prevent damage to sur-
rounding forests during construction, retaining in-
tegrity of the local hydrology of nalla courses and
waterfalls, preventing landslides and damage to ar-
eas which have unique floral and faunal elements
located in even small restricted ecosystems types
must become a part of future road development in
the Ghats. Areas in the Ghats section which include
multiple highly specific niches must be carefully
studied during the EIA for roads. Such local issues
must be cautiously dealt with if present within a
larger ESA during the EIA process. Road align-
ments that would traverse across on ESA must be
planned only if adequate mitigation is offered by
using norms as have been suggested for CAMPA
by the Hon. Supreme Court.
The existing roads especially on the Western es-
carpment wind back and forth from the base to the
crest line and then more gradually wind down to
the plateau. Thus the impact is not only of a few
meters on either side of the road but consists of a
wide belt from the northern most to the southern-
most point where the road twists back and forth
through a wide belt of forest along the side of the
range. The road thus creates a large zone of dis-
turbance in the Ghats section where roads have
been developed. Unless special measures are taken
to permit wildlife to get across such gaps the con-
tinuity of the Western Ghats forests to maintain
biological values is heavily compromised. A set of
ESAs which specifically consider the possible im-
pacts of the present road transport network and its
future development is a key concern for identifying
impacts on biodiversity. Thus such areas need to be
seen as a specific ESA category.
There are several major roads that transgress
some of the PAs in the Western Ghats in Maha-
rashtra. While these have been implicated as ma-
jor impacts on these PAs, and their development
has often been resisted by conservation oriented
NGOs, they have been developed in spite of this
resistance. Several such incidences can be reported
from Maharashtra, such as the road in Bhimashan-
kar connecting the Deccan Plateau to the Coast.
While these are known concerns, all the 10km
ESZs of the PAs have major roads and highways
through them. Some of these impact belts are sev-
eral kilometers long and therefore impact large pro-
portions of the ESAs. The development of high-
ways stimulate urbanisation and industralisation
along them and thus will lead to serious impacts
on conservation values of these PAs. This road re-
lated change in landuse leads to water, air and solid
waste pollution, noise and disturbance to adjacent
wildlife populations in the PA. National Highways
pass through Karnala and borders Tansa Wildlife
Sanctuaries. The scenario is much worse in the
ESAs with 5 National Highways that impact PAs
such as Sanjay Gandhi National Park, Tansa and
Karnala. There are State Highways in 5 PAs and in
ESAs of all the PAs in the NWG. Several PAs have
more than one or two roads that lead to impacts.
However road length is not an adequate indicator
of pressure as there are differences in traffic den-
sity. Four PAs have road lengths exceeding 100kms
in the ESZs. These are Radhanagari 149.5km, Tan-
sa 144km, Koyna 133km, and Chandoli 100.4km.
Sanjay Gandhi National Park has 110km of ma-
jor roads and a large number of smaller roads net-
worked in the ESA, which is in fact a major part of
the Mumbai and Thana Metropolitan areas. Road
widening and development of new roads is a seri-
ous concern as they stimulate unsustainable devel-
Three of the PAs in the NWG are impacted by
railway lines. These result in animal kills, distur-
bance of wildlife migration routes, pollution and
solid waste management problems.
The growth of these transport facilities has thus
disrupted the continuity of the forest ecosystem
along the entire length of the Western Ghats in
these states. The steepness of the escarpment ne-
cessitates developing long stretches of winding
roads that span an extensive tract of vegetation for
each new road.
This disrupts the floral and faunal integrity of
a wide sector to construct what is considered just
one more road. This does not take into account
the length of the winding road sector that traverses
along major sections of the escarpment through the
Ghats. The roads created thus have multiple wide
gaps that many species may not be able to bridge
from one forested patch to the next. A good exam-
ple is the Giant Squirrel which is found in this part
of the Western Ghats. It is an arboreal species that
rarely comes to the ground and needs an unbroken
canopy for its survival. There are no under passes
or over bridges for wildlife to cross these roads that
already have a high density of vehicles. Road kills
are extremely frequent.
Traditional hill slope agriculture in forested ar-
eas from the Dangs southward into Maharashtra
has long been considered an ecological problem.
Local tribal people have used the ancient agricul-
tural practice of rab by lopping forest biomass
which they burn in the fields for wood ash cultiva-
tion. The fire also helps kill off insect pests in their
rice paddies. They cultivate rice, nachani, varai and
legumes by rotation every few years. In the past
this was followed by several years during which the
forest could regenerate before the next cycle was
initiated. Cutting trees and retrieving branches or
leaf material from surrounding forests at an in-
creasing frequency has led to the development of
deforested patches that are now not given a suffi-
cient period to regenerate. The increasing number
of farmers who use this once sustainable agricul-
tural practice has led to shorter periods for forest
regeneration and consequently an increasing num-
ber of open patches along the once thickly forested
slopes (Goswami, Chatterjee, and Worah 2006).
Agricultural pressures in Maharashtra are due
to traditional farming practices (wood ash culti-
vation) also known as rab mainly in hilly areas,
which is forest biomass based. This has been preva-
lent, both inside and on the periphery of several
PAs. Recently irrigated sugarcane based agricul-
ture has replaced traditional agriculture as seen
in the table. The variation is a result of distance
and spatial differences in the proportion of the Eco
Sensitive Zone that has been converted to intensive
agriculture. Factors such as effects of monocrop-
ping patterns and the use of fertilizers, herbicides
and pesticides can have serious implications on the
biodiversity of the adjacent PAs. This includes dis-
ruption of food chains where insects form major
link species as well as deranging their function of
pollinating both forest plants and crops. It could
also lead to biomagnification of pesticides up the
food chain and affect for instance raptor popula-
tions (Bharucha, 2006).
Since most of the high and moderate pressures
due to agriculture are observed in irrigated areas
mainly for sugarcane holdings, they are linked
through sugar co-operatives to adjacent sugar fac-
tories which have their own serious impacts on the
PAs. Chandoli and Radhanagari have sugar facto-
ries within 10km of the boundary of the PA which
lead to serious waste management issues from the
release of molasses etc. See table Other changes
brought about by conversion of rainfed agriculture
to sugarcane include an increasing conflict level
due to predation of livestock by carnivores. Jumar,
a town close to Bhimashankar, has recently been
irrigated and used as sugarcane fields. Leopards
persistently move out of the Western Ghats from
the vicinity of Bhimashankar Sanctuary into the
adjacent cover of sugarcane. Conflict levels have
increased with livestock and even human life is put
at repeated risk. During the last couple of years a
large number of leopards have had to be caught
and translocated or put in zoos, only to be rapidly
Name of Protected Area
Water Reservoirs and
Irrigation Canals Agriculture
Tansa WLS Tansa Dam, Vaitarna Dam Bhavsa- Bhivandi Rice Low
Bhimashankar WLS
Backwater of Wadeshwar
and Dimbhe Dam
Rice, Nachani, Varai.
Shifting Cultivation
Karnala Bird Sanctuary Ransai Dam Info. NA Rice, Cereals, Varai Low
Phansad WLS Vihur Dam, Phansad Dam Nil Rice, Varai, Coconut Moderate
Koyna WLS Koyna Dam Nil Sugarcane, Rice Moderate
Chandoli WLS Chandoli Dam, Chandoli- Shirala Rice, Sugarcane, Nachani. Low
Radhanagari Bison WLS
Radhanagari Dam,
Kallamawadi Dam, Moderate
Sugarcane, Rice, Nachani,
Sanjay Gandhi National
Tulsi Lake, Vihar Lake,
Pavai Lake
Irrigation Canals from
Tulsi and Vihar Lake
Rice Nil
Impact Colour Codes High Moderate Low Nil
replaced by other leopards.
While traditional farming has indeed been a
gradually growing impact, it is the newer forms of
economic development strategies that have rapidly
created expanding gaps that have led to a loss of
corridors between the PAs of the Ghats. The de-
velopment of neo-townships in the Western Ghats
will have the most deleterious consequences for the
integrity of the ecosensitive slopes of the Western
Ghats. While townships such as the Amby Valley in
Lonavala and Lavasa in the Mulshi Taluka in Pune
District already exist and have disrupted forest con-
tinuity, there will be increasing demands for land
in this ecosensitive region for high income based
satellite townships for Pune and other growing cit-
ies in Maharashtra as well. This trend will displace
poor agriculturists of the Ghats, deprive them of
their lands, and create a new set of landless rural
people across the whole length of the Ghats. This
has already happened in the Mawal and Mulshi
Talukas of Maharashtra. For example, under the
Special Township Act of the Maharashtra Govern-
ment, by 2010, 34 new townships, of a minimum
area of 100 acres, have been planned and many of
them sanctioned in and around the city of Pune in
the Western Ghats (Bari and Savitha 2010). These
will have an obvious impact on the integrity of the
ecosystems of the Western Ghats.
Yet another impact is from the growing fringes
of cities that have now begun to spread into the
foothills of the Ghats both from the west coast and
from the rapidly growing large cities of the Dec-
can. Pune along with Pimpri-Chinchwad is well
on the way towards becoming an emerging mega-
city that is spreading into the Western Ghats. A
case in point is the scrapping of the proposed Bio-
diversity Parks covering an area of 18,000 acres in
23 newly merged villages of Pune city, in order to
permit FSI of 4 on the hill tops and hill slopes sur-
rounding the city (Chandawarkar 2010).
Unsustainable development of the urban edges
from growing towns and cities from the eastern
and western aspects into the Ghats has not been
studied from a scientific point of view. The biases
have been a reflection of local political pressures
and land speculation from the builder lobby. Urban
fringes include slums and shanties that spread into
the ecologically fragile hillslopes. The largest and
most serious being the slums around the Sanjay
Gandhi National Park at Borivali near Mumbai.
All the PAs have some level of impacts of tourist
facilities on the edges of the PAs. The impact of
day visitors is different from the pattern of impact
of overnight stay visitors. Both these groups require
different management strategies. Based on the
number of tourists alone, there are three high im-
pact, two medium impact and three low impact
PAs due to tourism. Having said this, the true car-
rying capacity depends on the size of the area, the
presence of an effective core, buffer and tourist zo-
nation, as well as the length of road networks in
PAs and the pattern of tourist vehicles used. While
these aspects are related to impacts that emanate
directly within the PA, the tourist facilities on the
boundaries of the PA have equally serious impacts
which create high levels of water pollution, large
amounts of non-degradable waste, noise, etc. In
these PAs, 2 have major tourism development
plans through the MTDC and several others are in
the offing. These plans tend to increase generalised
tourism and are only ecotourism in name. This is
probably one of the most serious concerns in which
the two concerned line agencies, the Forest Depart-
ment and the Tourism Department, require intense
interactions to appreciate that tourism itself can
form a major impact on the resource on which it
depends, viz. wildlife. While its impact on the
glamour species that tourists wish to see can be
quantified to some extent, it is the less known spe-
cies, such as endemic plants, insects, etc. on which
there are likely to be cryptic impacts which could
lead to their extinction and/or to serious loss of
critical habitats of endemic species. Other issues
related to animal breeding behaviour, territorial be-
havior, migration routes, etc. require more detailed
studies as this is linked to the level of tourism pres-
sure See table
Based on very general observations, Bhimashan-
kar gets over a lakh of tourists per year who come
for pilgrimage to the temple. Karnala gets over 3
lakhs mainly day visitors, picnickers and people
passing along the highway. Sanjay Gandhi Na-
tional Park has the largest number of visitors who
are picnickers and casual visitors to the temple.
The carrying capacity for tourists in these PAs is
already exceeded. However, there are PAs which
if managed for sustainable ecotourism, can evolve
a strategy where the activity provides alternate in-
come generation for local people. Some high pres-
sure tourist areas in the northern Western Ghats
are Sanjay Gandhi National Park, Mahabalesh-
war-Panchgani, Mathern, Panhala, Sinhgad, Bhi-
ma-shankar, Saputara, Radhanagari and Goa.
One of the less studied impacts on the forests of
the Western Ghats is from accidental and purpose-
ful introduction of exotic plant species over the last
few centuries. Several of these highly invasive spe-
cies have invaded the forests of the Western Ghats
and are now considered naturalized species. These
vigorous shrubs and ground flora have in many in-
stances become integrated into the existing ecosys-
tem and have developed linkages within the food
chains of the ecosystems of the Ghats. Lantana,
eupatorium, congress grass are examples of plants
that now cover wide sections of the Ghats. Their
impact on the forest ecology has led to alterations
in the abundance and species dynamics of natural
flora and fauna.
Ramakrishna et al. have shown that since many
of them entered the region long ago, they have
become pseudonatives (naturalised exotics). For
example, eucalyptus, coffee, tea, rubber etc. and
exotic fauna such as rainbow trout and tilapia (Ra-
makrishna, C. Radhakrishnan, and K. C. Gopi
2001). There are more than 35 well established
exotic trees in the Western Ghats of Maharashtra
(Ghate and Vartak 1990). However current distri-
bution of exotics remains poorly documented even
Name of
Tourist Facilities
Tourists Per Year and
Tourist Density
Pollution due
to Tourism
ment Plan
Rest House, Huts, Interpretation
Center (Inside)
100-200, Low 0.328-0.656
Water (Nil)
Garbage (Nil)
Bhimashankar Private Lodges (Inside) 1,00,000-2,00,000, High 764.64-1529.28
Water (High)
Garbage (High)
Info. NA
Suits, Log huts, Tents, Guest
Houses, Dormitory, Interpreta-
tion Center (Inside)
3,00,000-4,00,000, High
Water (Nil)
Garbage (High)
Info. NA
Interpretation Center, Guest
House (Periphery)
3,000-4,000 Low 56.053-74.738
Water (Nil)
Garbage (Nil)
Private Lodges (Tapola) Irrigation
Dept. (Koynanagar) (Periphery)
15,000-20,000 Moderate 35.41-47.21
Water (Nil)
Garbage (Mod)
Chandoli Irrigation Dept. (Inside) 5000 Low 16
Water (Nil)
Garbage (Mod)
Irrigation Dept. Forest Dept.
MTDC - Suits(Inside)
5,000 - 6,000 Moderate 14.23-17.08
Water (Nil)
Garbage (Nil)
Info. NA
Sanjay Gandhi
Resthouse, Dormitory, Interpreta-
tion Center, Museum, Canteen
13,00,000-15,00,000, High
Water (Nil)
Garbage (High)
Impact Colour
High Moderate Low Nil
though the importance of these plants as a threat to
natural ecosystems is better appreciated.
The Forest Department has used Eucalyptus,
Subabul, Glyricidia and Acacia auriculoformis se-
quentially over the last fifty years. These planta-
tions generally do not support the habitat needs of
wildlife in the Ghats. Their ability to act as corri-
dors is limited. Altering this to an ecorestorative
naturalistic plantation would enhance a biodiver-
sity oriented outcome.
The rather unpredictable outcomes of climate
change is a major deterrent to designing appropri-
ate responses and strategies for responding to al-
terations in climate that may affect the Protected
Area system of the Ghats. The current regional
scale models appear to be imprecise and are fur-
ther complicated by existing monsoonal vagaries,
and the limited data on temporal and spatial scales
of ecosystem responses to future climate change.
Some ecosystem responses could take centuries,
others may take decades. Thus expecting that spon-
taneous adaptation by species will occur and sal-
vage species from possible extinction may be little
more than an optimistic speculation.
It is predicted that by the end of the 21st century
rainfall will increase in most of India, (especially
along the west coast, and Western Ghats). The ef-
fect on species may well be more serious than other
existing human pressures that are seen due to al-
terations in the landscape The PRECIS climate
model from the Hadley Center, has shown the pat-
tern of changes in climate between 1961-1990, and
predict the expected trend in future from 2071 to
2100 under A2 and B2 scenarios. This shows that
by 2040 India will see a generalized warming and
increasing rainfall. The Indian Institute of Tropi-
cal Meteorology simulations predict a 20% rise in
the summer monsoon rainfall along the West coast
in future. This biogeographic region would thus
shift towards favouring plant species that grow un-
der wetter conditions (Kumar et al. 2006).
The forests of the Western Ghats depend not
only on the high level of precipitation but on the
number of rainy days. With the anticipated chang-
es in local weather conditions, alterations in the
regulatory action of the monsoon could produce
serious impacts on the forest type and structure in
the future.
Several of the local endemic habitat specific
species in the Western Ghats could be seriously
threatened by climate change. Local ground flora
could be substituted by a host of invasive species.
Those species that have evolved to survive in limit-
ed climatic ranges or are dependent on specialised
restricted habitat needs may see either positive or
negative effects on their populations depending on
the magnitude and shifts of rainfall regimes. Spe-
cies that are specific to drier habitats could suffer
a restriction of their ranges if rainfall increases.
Those that depend on higher levels of precipitation
could expand their range.
Studies on the possible shifts of geographical
ranges of species due to climatic alterations are
still at a preliminary stage. The ability of species to
adapt to climate change is thus difficult to predict.
This has implications for the future planning of ef-
fective ESAs for responding to the unpredictable
changes in rainfall and temperature in the Western
Various studies quoted in the IPCC Report
(Parry et al. 2007) suggest that there will be a loss
of species diversity in several forest types due to
climate change. This would particularly damage
tropical forest hotspots in the Western Ghats. For-
ests in higher altitudes will be encroached by low-
land vegetation. A decrease in the colder high alti-
tude habitats will change in response to increasing
temperature. This should make species of the low
lands move into the crest line, making it imperative
to use new adaptive strategies to conserve all the
threatened landscape elements within the Western
Climate change responses in the forests of the
Ghats cannot be expected to lead to a general over-
all ecosystem shift. While some species of native
plants have better adaptive strategies, others may
be adversely affected as their adaptive capacity to
change in altered climatic conditions is limited.
Thus plant communities cannot be expected to
migrate as complete entities. This implies that the
newly located ecosystem will not have an intact
food web. The drop out species could well trigger
a cascade of extinctions both of floral and faunal
elements even though the more robust species may
relocate themselves in a new northern location or
into higher altitudes in the Western Ghats, when
temperatures increases.
It is not expected that evergreen plants may colo-
nize the semi evergreen eastern slopes of the Ghats
if rainfall increases, as these tree species grow from
seedling banks under cover of a thick closed for-
est canopy. If however some elements of the ever-
green forests do spread northwards and eastwards
some of its dependant fauna would also migrate,
expanding the potential ranges of species such as
the Nilgiri Thar (Hamitragus hilocrius), the Lion
Tailed Macaque (Macaca silenus), Nilgiri Langur
(Trachypithecus johnii), Malabar giant squirrel
(Ratufa indica) and Grizzled giant squirrel (Ratufa
macroura). However, this can only be possible if
viable corridors are preserved through the length
of the Western Ghats. Several arboreal evergreen
forest birds could potentially spread northwards
into the Sahyadris of Maharashtra and into the
altered climatic conditions in the Dang forests of
Gujarat. However the breeding biology of most of
these species, which is tuned to very specific envi-
ronments, and the number of rainy days in mon-
soon months could be disrupted and breeding suc-
cess depressed. These potentially positive effects on
biodiversity would be reversed if rainfall decreases,
which would reduce the habitat for species of the
Shola forests in Kerala and Tamil Nadu.
The population of rare and endemic reptiles and
amphibians of the Ghats is already affected by for-
est fragmentation. Any further alteration in their
habitat may be disastrous for these little researched
taxa. Endemic fish of the Western Ghats could
The globally recognized hot spot of biodiversity in the Western Ghats and its adjacent coastal region
has 56 PAs spread over its length from the Dangs of Gujarat, Sahyadris of Maharashtra, the Ghat sections of
Goa, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu hills and Kerala. As the warming progresses and rainfall patterns alter there is
a need to be able to create south to north oriented corridoring that could benefit conservation in the aftermath of
climate change. This is perhaps the most valid and rational use of our current knowledge of the relationship of
biodiversity conservation strategies to climate change. No efforts should be spared in creating these all important
species survival corridors between the Protected Areas of the Western Ghats and its off shoots in the Nilgiris
and Agasthamalai ranges. The sites would thus include different categories of Ecologically Sensitive Areas that
must be declared and protected through selected executive bodies which are provided with a new set of legal provi-
also find themselves unable to cope with the more
erratic monsoon that will derange the flow in their
breeding streams. Increased temperature and a fur-
ther enhancement of flow rates due to the increase
in rainfall in the longer and heavier monsoons
could damage the breeding niches of freshwater
stream fish.
There are two impact agents that have not been
given attention and are data deficient. The first
deals with the long stretches of power lines across
the Ghats where the forests are cut down and al-
tered to a shrubby condition. Species such as the
Giant Squirrel would find this a serious barrier.
The newly instituted windmills on plateau tops
have not been studied for their impacts on avifauna
and the ground flora as they require connecting
roads and maintenance crews.
In conclusion, the age old impacts of traditional
rab agriculture, cattle grazing, fire and NTFP col-
lection within the Ghats forests was far lower than
the neo-impacts of urbanization, transport, tour-
ism, mines, dams and industrial development that
is expanding rapidly into the ecosensitive Western
Ghats and isolating its biologically important PAs
from each other. A set of ESAs with their own
policies, and implementation of locale specific
rules and regulations will be required to arrest the
threats that will lead to a rapid degradation of the
ecological values of the region. Creating a series
of ESAs with different locale specific objectives
would substantially reduce the potential impacts
on these fragile ecosystems. It is insufficient to
do routine EIAs for specific development proj-
ects. Apart from these EIAs, a carrying capacity
study that looks at the cumulative impact on the
region must form a major concern of the Western
Ghats Authority. Developing corridors to support
the Integrated Protected Area System in order to
preserve bioresources and wilderness ecosystems
in the long term is one important strategy. The un-
predictable nature of future climate change itself
brings home the importance of the precautionary
principle in managing ecosystems, species and ge-
netic values of the Western Ghats. Creating ESAs
that are mandated to preserve corridors or even
stepping stones for wildlife between PAs could be
crucial to protect biodiversity.
The loss of the original habitat of the Ghats has
created the most profound impact on several spe-
cies. This includes mammals, birds and other less
studied taxa. Forest bird abundance is a good indi-
cator of habitat quality in the Western Ghats.
Competition and overcrowding however, appears
to limit breeding success. Declines in the Malabar
Giant squirrel populations is evident in areas where
the canopy is opened up due to over use and altera-
tions in species composition of trees due to planta-
tions. The disappearance of habitat sensitive spe-
cies is the earliest signs of habitat degradation. As
shown by Mac Arthur and Wilson (1967) the rate
of species loss in isolated fragments of habitat is
inversely related to patch size. Only some species
can cross over from patch to patch if the distance
between them increases. Tigers for example are re-
luctant to cross from one isolated patch beyond a
certain threshold. Leopards in contrast will fre-
quently attempt crossing over, as is observed in
Junnar Taluka.
Thus combinations of several factors facilitate
or deter specific species from retaining a healthy
breeding population in the Western Ghats. These
factors include habitat quality, reduced fragment
size, increased edge effects and extent of isola-
tion. Matheran a relatively isolated patch for in-
stance has no sambar deer, but Mahabaleshwar is
frequently visited by sambar moving into the for-
est from Koyna Wildlife Sanctuary. These factors
together act as a threshold, where local extinction
results and recovery without a relocation program
becomes next to impossible. Ecorestoration using a
carefully designed strategy that creates room for re-
covery requires both corridoring as well as manag-
ing patch habitat quality. The ESAs would have to
be managed through scientific ecorestoration pro-
grams. This will essentially require detailed habitat
studies so that populations of habitat specific spe-
cies are able to recover in the ESAs.
The ecology and manage-
ment of frgemented forests in
the Dangs was studied by Bha-
rucha and Worah, 1994. The
study used a GIS analysis to
identify potential habitats of
four key species namely the
Rusty Spotted Cat, the tiger,
the Giant Squirrel and the
spotted deer.
Based on the GIS analysis it
was found that the distribution
of optimal habitat conditions
for each of the four target spe-
cies was fragemented into iso-
lated pockets. The species that had the largest amount of good quality habitat is the rusty spotted cat. This animal
here is reported to use steep, rocky forested areas.. Studies also indicated that the forst on the steep rocky slopes in
the Dangs was least disturbed. Thus the study reports that based on a combination of these two characteristics the
rusty spotted cat has good chances of long term survival in the Dangs. This conclusion was supported by frequent
sightings of this animal by local people. Good quality tiger habitat was patchy and thus the chances of long term
survival of this animal in the Dangs was questionable. No evidence of tigers was obtained during the present study.
Of the four target species the giant squirrel had the least amount of potential habitat left in the Dangs. Besides
it had nto been reported for the last forty years and is almost certainly extinct. Although the potential spotted
deer habitat is scattered throughout the Dangs, the only existing population of this species today is found in
the Bansda National Park where it has managed to survive. The only large mammal species that seemed to be
surviving was the leopard.
The study showed that although the potential habitat for individual species is highly fragmented, the overall
suitable habitat for the four target species combined showed a reasonably large contigous area. The best habitats
were in the northern and the western parts of the Dangs where the Purna Wildlife Sanctuary and the Bansda
National Park are located.
Both the Protected Forests and the plantations supported low wildlife values. However conservation of these
areas was suggested in lieu of their role as forest corridors between the Reserve forest patches.
Impacted areas will require new norms for
ecorestoration. Current greening programs insti-
tuted as mitigation and rehabilitation of mined ar-
eas is insufficient to provide the necessary habitat
conditions for the sensitive species.
Given the complex socio-eco-
logical situation in the Dangs
where the people are highly de-
pendent on the forests for their
survival, the study suggested a
management strategy that would
focus on the dual objectives of
conservation of biological values
of as much of the forest as pos-
sible and improved management
and restoration of the remain-
ing forests for the benefit of local
people. In order to achieve this,
the study suggested increase of
the boundary of the Purna WLS
to increase the contiguous RF
patches and shifting of the core area towards the east and the north where there were less pressures alongwith
tightening controls of these areas. At the same time it suggested opening up of other areas for utilisation by local
people as multiple-use areas.
A follow-up study in the Dangs was carried out by Bharucha & Kolte, 2005. This study suggested that the
forests has been increasingly fragmented and degraded due to expansion of rab in Protected Forests with severe
loss of habitat due to tree felling. The Dangs also underwent a periof of insurgency during 1989 to 1992 and
villages with high disturbance showed large loss of trees. Illegal timber felling and increased population pressures
also contributed to its degradation.
ne of the major mandates of the WGEEP
is to demarcate areas of the Western
Ghats to be notified as Ecologically Sen-
sitive. In spite of the obvious sensitivity of the glob-
ally recognised hotspot of biodiversity the Com-
mittee is expected to bring out those areas that can
be included as Multiple Use Areas with sufficient
protection to ensure long term sustainable develop-
This will require identifying of landscape ele-
ments with clearly defined norms of landuse man-
agement. Thus the proposed ESAs would have to
be categorised into different types, as their sensitiv-
ity levels and patterns vary across the Ghats. Two
basic issues need to be considered:
I. Existing ESAs: There are already notified
ESAs supported by the MOEF and the judiciary.
1. Protected Areas
2. ESAs around Protected Areas
3. Hill-station ESAs
II. Proposed ESAs: There are equally and even
more biologically valuable potential ESAs that
must be categorised into different types for area
specific management.
1. Areas Proposed but not Notified as ESAs
2. Reserve Forests and Closed Canopy Forests
3. Water Bodies
4. Sacred Groves
5. Specialized Ecosystems
6. Species Based ESAs
The existing ESAs in the northern Western
Ghats as stipulated by the Ministry of Environ-
ment and Forests include the network of Protected
Areas, a 10 kilometer buffer around each Protected
Area and the three hill stations of Matheran, Ma-
habaleshwar and Panchgani.
Protected Areas
The most important group of ESAs in the West-
ern Ghats are the existing and potential sites noti-
fied as Wildlife Sanctuaries (WLS) and National
Parks (NP). While the notified areas are protected
under the Wildlife Protection Act 1972, the process
of notification has not been completed for many
reasons for several PAs.
The PAs of the Northern Western Ghats include
3 National Parks and 15 Wildlife Sanctuaries in
the three states of Gujarat, Maharashtra and Goa.
Gujarat and Maharashtra rank among the top five
states in terms of PA coverage. In the Western
Ghats the PAs include Purna Wildlife Sanctuary,
and Vansda National Park in Gujarat, while Kal-
subai Wildlife Sanctuary, Bhimashankar Wildlife
Sanctuary Koyna National Park, Chandoli Wild-
life Sanctuary (proposed National Park) and Rad-
hanagri Wildlife Sanctuary in Maharashtra are
situated along the crest and slopes of the Western
Ghats in Maharashtra. In Maharashtra the Protect-
ed Areas that extend into the coastal belt include
Tansa Wildlife Sanctuary, Sanjay Gandhi National
Park (Borivali) and Phansad Wildlife Sanctuary
while those that extend into the Deccan Plateau
are the potential PAs of Mulshi and Mawal talukas
of Pune district which were discussed frequently
but were never formally notified. Some of these
PAs extend from the coastal plains into the West-
ern escarpment. Others include forests between
catchment areas of dams along the eastern spurs
that slope into the Deccan.
The PAs in this biogeographic region include
several landscape types which lie in the hill sec-
tions and adjacent coastal plains. Several of the
floral and faunal elements are common to both
these sub regions. A number of species are how-
ever unique to the hills (Bossuyt et al. 2004). To-
gether this group of PAs constitute the most im-
portant ESAs of the Western Ghats. Most of them
spread across the crest line and extend into parts
of the eastern slopes into the Deccan where they
include patches of deciduous forests and old teak
plantations. This gives rise to a wide range of land-
scapes with many different and unique landscape
elements. As the rainfall drops drastically from the
crest line to the Deccan plateau, the vegetation of
most of these PAs changes dramatically from west
to east (Champion and Seth 1968).
Several of these Protected Areas have villages
within them. The settlements are usually situat-
ed where the hill slope meets a river flood plain.
Patches of agricultural land surround the villages
even within the PAs. In several hill slopes there are
blanks due to rab cultivation, where a mosaic of
forest and rab agriculture forms a distinctive lan-
duse category with these two different landscape
The priority would be to create not just contigu-
ous but continuous corridors in between the above
given network of PAs.
The Protected Areas have already been pri-
oritized based on their legal status into National
Parks, Wildlife Sanctuaries and recently newly sug-
State National Park Wildlife Sanctuaries
Gujarat Vasda National Park Purana Wildlife Sanctuary
Maharashtra Sanjay Gandhi National Park Kalsubai Harishchandra Wildlife Sanctuary
Tansa Wildlife Sanctuary
Bhimashankar Wildlife Sanctuary
Chandoli Wildlife Sanctuary
Karnala Wildlife Sanctuary
Koyna Wildlife Sanctuary
Phansad Wildlife Sanctuary
Radhanagari Wildlife Sanctuary
Sagareshwar Wildlife Sanctuary
Goa Molem National Park Bondla Wildlife Sanctuary
Cotigao Wildlife Sanctuary
Madei Wildlife Sanctuary
Molem Wildlife Sanctuary
Netravalli Wildlife Sanctuary
List of National Parks and Wildlife Sanctuaries in the northern Western Ghats
gested as Community Reserves.
Early efforts for prioritization of Protected Ar-
eas were done for the World Bank Forestry Sector
in Maharashtra in 1991. Planning a PA network
for Maharashtra led to the institution of new PAs
mostly based on Rodgers & Panwar 1988. A pa-
per by (Bharucha 1996) dealt with prioritization
among the 29 PAs of Maharashtra.
For the Western Ghats PAs this paper has rated
Radhanagari, Koyna and Phansad as (+++) indi-
cating above average scoring for all the major cri-
teria ie: conservation potential, utilitarian potential
and conflict levels. The author notes that the pos-
sibility of restoration appears almost feasible in
this group. He suggests that the aim of manage-
ment should be to create as large a core as pos-
sible with ecodevelopment inputs for conserving
the buffer on a sustainable basis. The low conflict
level is a distinct advantage making restoration an
attainable target. It was also suggested that Rad-
hanagari, Koyna and Phansad should be upgraded
to NP status to provide inviolate cores and better
management which would ensure their preserva-
tion on a long term basis. Chandoli has been given
a rating of (+00) indicating that it has a high con-
servation potential with average ecodevelopment
possibilities and moderate levels of conflict. Bhi-
mashankar has been given a rating of (+0-) as it has
a very high biological significance being situated
in a hot spot of biodiversity but has local conflict
problems. Sanjay Gandhi National Park has been
given a rating of (0+-) signifying a PA of average
importance where ecodevelopment is feasible but
unduly high conflict levels. The paper suggests that
management here must focus primarily on reduc-
ing conflict. Kalsubai and Karnala have been given
State Area Name Status Significant Biome / Land Unit
Moist Deciduous
Dry Deciduous
Forest Plantation
Gujarat Bansda P P
Maharashtra Tansa S
Bhimashankar S ? P P
Koyana S P P
Chandoli S P P
ishchandragad S P P P
Radhanagari S P P P
Goa Mollem S P P
Bondla S P P
Cotigao S P P P
State Area Name Status Significant Species
Tiger Elephant Gaur
Spotted Cat
Civet Hornbills
Gujarat Bansda P E ?
Maharashtra Tansa S P P
Bhimashankar S P
Koyana S P P P P
Chandoli S P P P
ishchandragad S P
Radhanagari S P P P P
Goa Mollem S ? ? P P P
Bondla S
Cotigao S P P
Summary of Values of Existing and Proposed Protected Areas (Rodgers and Panwar 1988)
a rating of (--0) indicating a low conservation po-
tential with low utilisation potential and moderate
levels of conflict. The paper suggests that manage-
ment planning must focus on a good substitution
program for resources and identify those that have
specific conservation objectives.
Very little work on prioritizing PAs in the north-
ern part of the Western Ghats appears to have
been done in the recent past. The currently ongo-
ing Management Effectiveness Evaluation being
carried out by the MoEF and the WII can be used
as an available source of data and information on
management outcomes that can be used to plan
ESAs and their selection based on this evaluation
experience. Several of these PAs have already been
included in the study and have a wealth of useful
information for planning ESAs in the Ghats.
There are two other useful data sources that can
be used to plan effective ESAs. While both these
were carried out in the late 1980s, reviewing them
and comparing their data to current situations could
form a vitally important study to formulate plans
for ESAs in the Ghats section. The two studies are:
Planning a Wildlife Protected Area Network in In-
dia (Rodgers and Panwar 1988) and Management
of National Parks and Sanctuaries in India: A Sta-
tus Report (Kothari, Forests, and Division 1989).
ESAs around Protected Areas
Currently the Ministry of Environment and For-
est (MOEF) has mandated that a 10 km buffer zone
around the Protected Areas should be notified as
an ecologically sensitive area. However, this ruling
has been repeatedly violated around the PAs of the
Northern sector of the Western Ghats.
In the Western Ghats the surrounds of Protected
Areas are of special significance. There are 18 PAs
within and at the periphery of the northern part of
the Ghats. The level of protection has been varied
and fluctuating due to unclear management and
differences in the prior ownership of the land. The
PAs are however protected at least on paper. Ex-
amples of management alterations in time include
issues such as tribal retaliations that occurred in
and around Purna Wildlife Sanctuary in Gujarat a
few years ago. This led to the uncontrolled felling
of a large number of trees in the Protected Area
and its surrounding Reserve Forest blocks. Roads
passing through these PAs and their surrounds
have not been considered as requiring a different
level of management. Such areas should have tran-
sit passages for wildlife in the form of underpasses
or overbridges. No industrial or urban development
should have occurred in these areas. In many situa-
tions, tourist complexes have spread all around the
PAs in what is now considered an ESA.
The rapid deforestation that has occurred in the
catchment areas whenever dams have been built,
even in the vicinity of Protected Areas has broken
the continuity of the forests. These areas on the
fringes of Protected Areas are vital to the integrity
of the Western Ghats Protected Area system, es-
pecially in relation to their potential value as cor-
ridors between PAs. A corridor that includes the
PA surrounds must be notified as an ESA as part of
a precautionary principle even beyond the 10 km
rule. The currently notified PA surrounds must be
notified and managed as per the orders of the Hon.
Supreme Court. New projects that require landuse
alterations must not be permitted around the PAs
in the Ghats in the future. This includes establish-
ing new tourism areas, or cities like those devel-
oped at Amby Valley and Lavasa, which have led
to disruption of potentially viable forest corridors.
There is thus a strong rationale to include the
surrounding landscape of Protected Areas as a spe-
cial category of ESAs. In the future, surrounding
human perturbations around PAs will have strong
negative impacts on the conservation potential of
PAs in the Ghats. Several PA surrounds harbour
a mosaic of forest types in Reserve Forests and
specialized ecosystems such as plateaus and scrub-
lands that act as vital buffers to the biodiversity
sequestrated in National Parks and Wildlife Sanc-
tuaries. A review of the present landuse around
PAs in Maharashtra (Bharucha 2006) suggests
that there are a large number of existing impacts
on these ESAs. These include industrial establish-
ments, dams, hydel power stations, roads, mines,
and townships. These existing landuse categories
cannot be wished away. However attempts must be
made to limit the impacts and provide mitigating
measures by creating legislations and rules to re-
duce their impact. No new development should be
permitted in this category of ESAs. This is an im-
portant issue as many PA surrounds in the North-
ern Western Ghats are already surrounded by other
forms of landuse (Bharucha 2006).
Hill-station ESAs
Increasing levels of tourism have led to defor-
estation, problems of waste disposal, housing
expansion, roads and water shortage in most hill
stations both in the northern Western Ghats and
elsewhere in India. For several years, and more so
from the early 1990s, NGOs and conservation re-
search groups have debated the need to protect hill
ecosystems and the hill stations within them. The
Pronab Sen Committee Report (Sen 2000) includes
hill stations as an ESA group. Currently new town-
ships such as Sahara and Lavasa and the proposed
New Mahabaleshwar Township should be brought
under the purview of the same conditions as they
are nested in the Western Ghats and are distinctly
a growing threat within the biodiversity hotspot
region of the Western Ghats (Kapoor, Kohli, and
Menon 2009).
Among the hillstations of the Western Ghats,
only Panchgani, Mahabaleshwar, Matheran in the
Sahyadris have been classified as Ecologically Sen-
sitive Areas. This leaves out areas such as the new
townships, old forts such as Panhala, Sinhagad etc.
that area growing into urban centers with serious
environmental problems due to garbage dumping,
water pollution, etc. as their tourist carrying capac-
ity has been exceeded.
The Mahableshwar-Panchgani Ecologically
Sensitive Area covers an area of 237.28 sq km. In
terms of the history of the ESA classification, the
Department of Environment, Maharashtra Gov-
ernment carried out a study on the environmental
status of the Mahabaleshwar plateau in 1982 and
stated in its report unless checked now, the entire
plateau may well be destroyed within a decade and
rendered unfit for human habitation. Around the
same time, the Ministry of Environment and For-
ests (MoEF) had gazetted a preliminary notifica-
tion inviting public objections and suggestions for
the declaration of Pachmarhi as an Ecologically
Sensitive Area. This was the first hill station to be
considered for declaration as ecologically frag-
ile. This created the ground for pushing the Ma-
habaleshwar-Panchgani Notification in the Min-
istry. Thus the Mahabaleshwar-Panchgani ESA
Notification follows the same pattern as used by
the Pachmarhi draft ESA Notification. For the first
time provisions were made for heritage conserva-
tion, regulation of groundwater extraction and
regulation of traffic. These provisions were added
keeping in mind the ecology of the hill station as
an ESA.
A review by Kapoor et al., 2009 of the ESAs de-
picts milestones from 2000 onwards that have led
to the process of a proposed Sahyadri ESA. The
altitudinal gradient of the proposed area coupled
with the difference in rainfall across the area con-
tributes to the creation of the diverse forest types
that are seen in the area which provide the range of
hills with exceptional biological values.
They have shown that deforestation, poaching
and encroachments are serious deterrents to the
ecological and environmental assets within this re-
gion. The concept was initiated around 1991 when
a Sahyadri Ecologically Sensitive Areas (SESA)
consisting of 4200 sq km. in Karnataka in Maha-
rashtra was suggested as an ESA in the Northern
Western Ghats. This was first proposed by the Na-
tional Committee for the Protection of Natural
Resources. By its notification dated June 21, 1999,
the MoEF invited suggestions or objections on the
draft rules proposed to prohibit or regulate loca-
tion of identified industries in proximity to iden-
tified ecologically and environmentally sensitive
areas. After the last meeting of the Mohan Ram
Committee on June 29, 2004 and its suggestions,
the Sahyadri Ecologically Sensitive Areas has not
been discussed in the MoEF. According to Dr.
H.Y. Mohan Ram, the Chairman of the committee
to declare areas as ecologically sensitive, though
SESA was a good proposal and aimed at protect-
ing the Western Ghats, how it would ensure sound
management being spread across three states was
not clear. Thus, he felt it was better not to notify
the entire region as an ESA, but select areas which
could be declared as ecologically sensitive within
the larger area (Kapoor, Kohli, and Menon 2009)
Matheran was constituted as an ESA in 2003. By
that time the Pronab Sen Committees report (see
section 4 of this chapter) was out and the Matheran
Notification was now re-drafted to fit the criteria
laid down in this report. The Eco-Sensitive Area
covers an area of 214.73 sq km and a 200 m buf-
fer zone and consists of the area of the Matheran
Municipal Council and its environs.
There can be several categories of ESAs depend-
ing on the ecological process and biodiversity val-
ues that can be maintained within them in the long
term. Each category can be separately rated on the
basis of their function in the Western Ghats land-
scape as well as their level of threat. For example,
the Bhor Ghats at Khandala is a substantial gap in
the effort at corridoring, which needs to be included
as an ESA. Some patches of relatively good forests
that function as critically important corridors must
form a key aspect of notifying ESAs. . Similarly, ar-
eas where new dam and mining projects have been
proposed need to be extensively reviewed. It is im-
portant to balance the needs of conservation and
development through a set of priorities, the institu-
tion of good governance practices and principles
of sustainability to stem or reverse threats.
(Sarkar et al. 2006) outline these concerns which
apply to conservation planning for the Western
Ghats. They contend that representation and per-
sistence are important parameters as conservation
competes with other forms of landuse. The long-
term sustenance of ecological and evolutionary
principles must govern the objectives of creating
ESAs in the Western Ghats. The authors consider
complimentarily irreplaceability and vulner-
ability as key issues for conservation planning.
The ESAs in the Western Ghats will require the
use of several decision making tools to bring out a
well-considered ESA management strategy.
The ESAs in the northern sector of the Ghats is
one strategy that could bring about longterm sus-
tainable land management in the Ghats. This must
bring to the front not only activities or development
projects that cannot be carried out, but also indi-
cate areas where activities may be permitted based
on the special needs or under specific requirements.
This must be based on cumulative (region based)
carrying capacity studies rather than single project
If the objective of a Western Ghats Authority is
a sustainable management strategy for the Western
Ghats it must look at environmental social and eco-
nomic factors to permit or disallow certain forms
of development.
Thus the rating for a parcel of land that is to be
protected or developed through ESAs must take
into account all three concerns. As the primary fo-
cus is biodiversity conservation this must be given a
large score; as social issues related to local farmers
and tribal folk require a greater degree of protec-
tion to their resources rather than shift their land
use into an urban category, this must be based
on social issues such as traditional resource use
and sacred groves. The economic concern here is
closely linked to social concerns as for example the
support for ecotourism through which the income
goes to the local communities rather than five star
tourism operators. Economic considerations must
focus on providing a better quality of life for local
people such as access to potable water, access to
health, better housing, agricultural technology and
alternate income generation possibilities.
Based on these three conditions activities can be
considered as sustainable or unsustainable in a par-
ticular ESA category. Thus for example a parcel of
ESA could be permitted for grazing or collection
of firewood or NTFP at a sustainable level of de-
The rating scale to quantify this would thus have
conservation assessment, evaluation of social ben-
efits and economic concerns. It would also assess
present and future threats. Thus rather than a sin-
gle score the outcome should include a signature
for each category that would give a positive value
to conservation social and economic importance
and a negative scoring system for threat evaluation.
However to prioritize the level of eco-sensitivity
most authors add the conservation importance to
the threat values to compare different areas.
The various categories of areas that could be in-
cluded as an ESA are described below.
Areas Planned but not Notified as PAs
The existing PAs of this biogeographic zone as
listed by (Rodgers and Panwar 1988) and (Rodgers
et al. 2002) are useful documents that could be used
as a basis for suggesting inclusion of the potential
PAs into a network of ESAs under the proposed
Western Ghats Authority. There are two such ar-
eas in the northern Western Ghats, both in Maha-
rashtra. These are Mahabaleswar and Fr. Santapau
Sanctuary, later suggested as Rajmachi and Mulshi
wildlife sanctuaries.
For example, the mitigation measures suggested
for the Mumbai Pune Expressway was to develop
two Protected Areas of 100 km2 each in the West-
ern Ghats north and south of the alignment. While
this was planned by the Forest Department in great
detail using satellite imaging and Reserve Forest
from toposheets, the mitigation agreed to, has nev-
er been implemented. The proposal had envisioned
including only the RF blocks and renotifying them
as Wildlife Sanctuaries. This proposal could be eas-
ily revived and either notified as has been agreed to
or be included as ESAs under the Western Ghats
Reserve Forest and Closed Canopy Forest
Das et al. 2006 have identified high conserva-
tion value grids containing RFs adjoining existing
PAs. The feasibility of including these forests in the
respective protected area should be examined. In
Maharashtra, the Sahyadri Konkan corridor con-
sisting of the Bhimgad Reserve Forest, Amboli
Reserve Forest and the forests of Mahabaleshwar
have been put into this category.
The pattern of vegetation in the Ghats is influ-
enced strongly by geological, climatological and
altitudinal factors. Most of the RF patches are rela-
tively small and have been altered by decades and
even centuries of human interference of different
types and levels of impact. These natural and bi-
otic influences have led to the most complex forms
of forest communities and created a jigsaw puzzle
of landscape elements that form distinct mosaics
across the Ghats. This effects forest communities
from north to south the geomorphological effect,
and west to east the climatological effects of pre-
Historically, the protection strategy in early times
is evident only from the very small but widespread
groups of sacred groves maintained by local forest
dwelling people. These form benchmarks of what
the ESAs should look like in the future.
For purposes of creating viable ESAs the most
obvious patches of forest are within Reserved For-
ests in the Western Ghats. The forests with over
60% canopy values appear to be mainly the RF
patches some of which have been incorporated
into PAs.
A major concern is the need for forest connec-
tivity which is a prime concern in the design of
a network of ESAs. This must not only look at
North South corridoring but at connectivity be-
tween forests of the hill range and the coastal belt.
While several floral and faunal elements between
the Western Ghats hill section and the forests in the
coastal belt differ significantly, there are common
elements which require this connectivity between
hill range crests, the escarpment, and the coastal
plain. Much of this West East connectivity is
through stream edge vegetation which is linked to
riparian vegetation of river banks and finally to the
mangroves in estuaries.
Signature for ESAs based on sustainability
Conservation assessment score
Social signifcance score
Local Economic stability
Threat considerations
Several species of insects, amphibians and fish
are most vulnerable to a breakdown of such tracts
which are highly susceptible to the negative im-
pacts of roads, power lines, and to some extent the
conversion of nachni-varai and paddy lands into
terraced sugarcane.
In the Northern Western Ghats there is a need to
classify forests into ecologically based formations.
The two more typical examples to be considered
include high tall and low stunted forest structures
that are seen in patches. The dominant trees in-
clude the Memecylon Syzygium Actinodaphne,
semi evergreen formations for example of Ma-
habaleshwar and the very different Dimocarpus
Holigarna in Bhimashankar, Chandoli, Koyna
that forms another distinctive forest. In contrast a
majority of the forests of the catena in Gujarat has
moist and dry deciduous teak or miscellaneous for-
ests (Worah 1991).
Existing forest corridors and potential corridor-
able sites are a key to preserving biological val-
ues of these varied forests types. This is of great
relevance to managing faunal values not only for
the areas intervening between the PAs but for the
longterm genetic and evolutionary processes of the
Ghats as a bio-ecological entity of global value.
The Forest Survey of Indias categorization
of vegetation classes into high density moder-
ate density and scrub land is an indication of the
fragmentation of the forests. Any further degrada-
tion is likely to have the most serious consequenc-
es. While some of this could be tackled through
ecorestoration, mined areas for example that have
been rehabilitated by a green cover of exotic trees
may be unusable for a large variety of fauna. The
outcome of neglect at this stage could well lead to a
permanent and irreversible damage to biodiversity.
Some of the important aspects of notifying
ESAs in the Reserve Forest category include the
1. Size (for core species)
2. Configuration
3. Connectivity
4. Naturalness (Least disturbed by plantations
>60% canopy of indigenous forest tree spe-
The level of fragmentation of different forest
types is a key concern for developing a system of
ESA corridors for the Western Ghats.
Water Bodies
The aquatic ecosystems of the Ghats consist of
lotic and lentic systems. While the streams and riv-
er tributaries range from temporary monsoon tor-
rents to slow moving pools, the lakes contiguous
to the Ghats area all artificial impoundments due
to the construction of a series of dams developed
progressively for over a century.
River Sources
In the Western Ghats the forest is the source for
all the rivers that meander through the vast Dec-
can, as well as give birth to the river deltas and es-
tuaries in the coastal region.
The relationship of river sources with Protected
Areas, temples and other historical sites is found
in several parts of the Western Ghats, such as the
five rivers including the Krishna from old Maha-
baleshwar and the Bhima river in Bhimashankar.
These sources have some level of traditional or in-
stitutionalized protection. However, most other riv-
er sources have no protection from the impacts of
a number of development related activities. New
townships that have sprung up in the Ghats have
created impacts on these river sources by using the
perennial sources for their own use, disrupting their
flow and altering their natural ecological attributes.
Changes made by human activity at these river
sources can have serious consequences down-
stream. These rivers arise from water that perco-
lates from a lateritic plateau into underground
stores and then emerges at a lower level as a spring.
The disturbance to the flow of surface water on
the crest of the range can modify the flow from
the spring. This not only adversely affects the veg-
etation around the spring, but reduces the critical
availability of a perennial source of water for wild-
life. These sites should form a separate category
of ESAs. The most critical spots are sources of
streams that are perennial as they form keystone
resources for wildlife in summer.
While the temples attempt to protect these river
sources, the growing level of pilgrimage tourism to
these sites due to better roads up to the temple has
become a serious impact on the ecological features
of these river sources. Bhimashankar receives thou-
sands of tourists during the Mahashivratri festival,
causing pollution from food waste, faecal matter,
plastic bags, bottles and oil from motor vehicles
that pollute the crystal clear waters of the spring
where the Bhima originates. Such sacred temple
sites where rivers originate must be included in a
specific set of ESAs to prevent the desecration of
the water sources especially during religious yatras.
The important river sources that need to be pro-
tected are linked to the integrity of watersheds with
different types of land and resource use within
The Western Ghats are collectively an important
watershed region. All the major rivers of the Dec-
can Plateau and the coastal region arise in a series
of adjacent independent watersheds in the Western
Ghats. Their upper catchments are the most eco-
logically sensitive zones as they are on steep slopes
which were once surrounded by an intact continu-
ous forested tract along the Ghats and its offshoots.
The rivers are fed by a large number of tributar-
ies of ecological significance. The major rivers from
North to South include Godavari, Purna, Manjra,
the Pranhita (Penganga-Wardha), Indravati, the
Sabari, Darna, Kadwa, Mula, Karanji, Madhur-
nala, Devanala, Hebbala, Krishna, Koyana, Varna,
Panchganga, Doodhganga, Bhima, Musi, Paleru,
Maneru, Ghataprabha, Malaprabha and Tungab-
The west flowing rivers in the Western Ghats are
Purna, Auranga, Par in Gujarat; Surya, Vaitarna,
Damanganga, Ulhas, Savitri, Vashisthi, Gad, Kaja-
vi and Kodavali in Maharashtra; Mandovi, Zauari,
Tiracol, Chapora, Talpona in Goa.
Several of the smaller tributaries are of ecologi-
cal importance. Each river has its own abiotic fea-
tures in its catchment zone which includes topog-
raphy, slope, geological nature, soil characteristics,
rainfall patterns and biotic features such as forest
types, open grasslands and shrubby growth. Dis-
regard for the integrity of the watersheds of the
tributaries emanating from the Ghats, (both on the
Western and Eastern aspects) leads to severe altera-
tions, in water supply for all types of human use,
besides creating a serious problem for the conser-
vation of wildlife.
The aquatic and terrestrial features of the catch-
ments constitute a complex and interrelated eco-
logical mosaic. Destabilising either component
leads to disruption in the other. Thus deforestation
of the terrestrial ecosystem alters flow rates in the
streams of the Ghats. Altered overutilization of
water from the stream destroys the riparine threat-
ened ecosensitive vegetation.
The watershed as a whole thus is an important
ESA with very special management considerations
as a category requiring its own norms and rules.
Securing these functions is a key to sustainable de-
velopment at the regional level. This will require
locale specific microlevel planning and the coop-
eration of local people.
Catchments of Dams
The catchment zones are rapidly losing the
forests that once prevented soil erosion and mon-
soonal flooding downstream of the dams. The de-
forested areas in the catchments have led to rapid
siltation with a serious reduction in the water hold-
ing capacity and the life span of the dams. Desilt-
ing dams is a much more expensive process than
preventing deforestation and afforesting the de-
graded catchment areas.
A review of the catchments of the dams along
the Western Ghats demonstrates that there are
hardly any large valleys left without a water-spread
created by the series of dams. Thus once the dams
have lost their long term viability through siltation
there are no valleys where new dams can be built.
Thus the command agricultural areas, of the dams,
the cities and industrial belts that are completely
dependent on a year round supply of water from
the dams will be crippled and an entire set of nega-
tive economic and social concerns will be seen af-
ter a few decades.
It may be noted that if all the catchments are
to be considered as ESAs there is very little inter-
vening land between them. They are separated by
a narrow range of steep hills. Thus the whole of
the Ghats section which surround the catchment
of the dams must be included in these ESAs. Each
catchment area of these dams must be included in
a highly essential group of special category ESA.
Studies by Bharati Vidyapeeth Institute of Envi-
ronment Education and Research for Tata Electric
Companys hydel catchment areas (BVIEER 1998)
demonstrated two patterns of biotic pressures. At
Valvan and Shirowata, the area within the catch-
ment has no villages and has tracts of Reserved
Forests from which the villages were resettled in
the early 1900s outside the catchment. Here the
pressure of grazing and fuel wood collection oc-
curred from outside the catchment. This created a
centrifugal pressure which began at the ridge and
has moved progressively downwards into residual
patches of forest in a less degraded condition at a
lower level. In contrast, in the Andhra Lake and in
the Mulshi catchment the villages are in the flood
plains of the original Indravati and Mula rivers.
Here the pressure is primarily centripetal, begin-
ning from the base of the hill ranges and extending
gradually towards the crest line. The more intact
forests are closer to the higher ridges of the catch-
ment areas. This has implications for managing
ESAs of all the catchment areas in the Western
Sacred Groves
The large number of small patches of sacred
groves maintained by local communities in a
relatively high state of ecological integrity are of
considerable conservation value as benchmarks of
naturalness. Established conservation programs
(e.g. protected area networks) do not recognize the
value of traditional institutions, despite the exist-
ing evidence for their effectiveness in biodiversity
conservation and pressure from researchers to in-
clude them in local and regional conservation plan-
ning (Bhagwat and Rutte 2008).
Gadgil and Vartak as early in the late 60s pio-
neered studies on the sacred groves of Maharashra.
When the floral species richness of adjacent groves
is aggregated, the small groves together contain
most of the species found across wide expanse of
the Ghats. They thus not only act as bench mark-
ers of ecological intactness but as gene banks for
seed recovery of the rarer species of plants (Bharu-
cha 1999). In Mawal and Mulshi even though the
sacred forest patches are small in size their aggre-
gated species richness usually represents the com-
plete spectrum of plant species of the forest type
around the catchments of the hydel lakes in this
region (BVIEER 1998).
Sacred groves have been defined as a biological
heritage and a system that has helped to preserve
the representative genetic resources existing in the
surrounding regions for generations. They are a
rich repository of biodiversity and a product of a
certain socio-ecological philosophy, which is today
a potent tool to avert any crisis in the society (Singh
et al.2009). They reflect a cherishment of sanctity
through conservation of biodiversity. Tree cutting
and other such extraction of resources is forbidden
only in the smaller groves, while larger groves often
function as resources for the sustenance of local
people. Threats to sacred groves today are due to
modernisation, liberalisation, privatisation and
globalisation, leading to an erosion of values that
created the concept of sacred groves.
These informal protected areas are as impor-
tant for biodiversity conservation as formal areas.
While endemic trees were more abundant in for-
est reserves than in sacred groves; threatened trees
were more abundant in sacred groves in the south-
ern Western Ghats. (Bhagwat et al. 2005). sacred
groves cover many important habitats and species
which are not covered by Pas. A study on the sa-
cred groves of Mawal and Mulshi Talukas showed
that each grove had a different complement of
large old trees. However when they were added to-
gether even the small groves had contributed to the
list of tree species and thus all the species found
in the forests of Mawal and Mulshi Talukas were
accounted for within the groves (Bharucha 1999).
The patches of old growth forests which have
large trees and hollow trunks are of importance
for forest birds, giant squirrels, flying squirrels,
bats and several insects. These old growth patches
in Maharashtra are associated with tribal deities
which are protected by local people as devrais,
deo rahati or have no specific nomenclature, but
are never-the-less preserved as intact or semi-intact
forest patches dedicated to animistic deities. These
are often depicted as fearful female gods, or ani-
mals such as the tiger. For example, in the Mawal
and Mulshi talukas there are 44 groves of one to
eight hectares in size maintained by local commu-
nities. They have been looked after mostly by the
Mahadeo Koli tribe. Each grove is named after a
special deity. Several have a mythological story re-
lated to their origin (Malhotra et al. 2001)
Intricate local traditional customs have main-
tained the groves through a stochastic method in
which a ritual by the pujari controls the amount
of resources that may be extracted from the grove
at any point in time. The local communities es-
tablish rules that vary from grove to grove. These
norms often prohibit the felling of trees and the
killing of animals, but do allow for the collection
of firewood, fodder, and medicinal plants by local
people (Hughes and Chandran 1998). Also, in a
majority of groves studied in Mawal and Mulshi
Talukas some resources are extracted based on rit-
uals which permit a small and sustainable level of
resource-use for local purposes. In some deadwood
and fruit may be collected. In others palm juice
may be taken for toddy.
The local kaul ritual is performed in several
groups of groves in the Western Ghats which lim-
its resource extraction by a ceremony based on
chance. The priest makes two trickles of water on
the side of the deities platform. He then places a
grain of wheat in each of the trickles which stick to
the side of the platform till the decrease in surface
tension permits one of them to fall. Depending on
whether the right or left grain falls first the deity
permits or discourages the extraction of branches,
or trees from the grove. There are several alterna-
tive ways of doing the ceremony, all of which have
a fifty-fifty percent chance of permitting a resource
to be taken from the grove.
In most groves a blanket preservation of the ex-
traction of all resources is not usually carried out.
A temple for the grove may be built on money col-
lected by selling timber from the grove under spe-
cial conditions. This has strong community sup-
port from local village folk. In contrast the groves
in Kerala are maintained by each family in their
In most cases the protection afforded is governed
A Partial List of Sacred Groves in the Northern Western Ghats
District Taluka Village Area (HA) Deity
Ratnagiri Chiplun Kudap 14.81 ---
Ratnagiri Chiplun Sawarde 12.18 ---
Ratnagiri Dapoli Kudavale 46.00 ---
Ratnagiri Dapoli Sadavali 12.14 ---
Ratnagiri Sangmeshwar Adawad 25.00 Unapdev
Ratnagiri Sangmeshwar Devde 30.00 Mhasoba
Ratnagiri Sangmeshwar Marleshwar 100.00 Marleshwar
Sindhudurg Kankavli Bidvad 12.04 ---
Sindhudurg Kankavli Pise Kamate Bidvad 12.79 ---
Sindhudurg Kudal Awalegaon 23.29 ---
Sindhudurg Kudal Khochre 23.29 Dungoba
Sindhudurg Sawantwadi Ambegaon 20.00 Mauli
Sindhudurg Vengurle Achra 20.00 Rameshwar
Raigad Alibag Adi 17.25 ---
Raigad Alibag Chirgaon 32.18 ---
Raigad Alibag Dahan 30.08 ---
Raigad Alibag Deodhar 33.69 ---
Raigad Alibag Khandala 90.00 Siddheshwar
Raigad Alibag Kole 17.59 Kole
Raigad Alibag Mangloli 18.72 Kalkai
Raigad Alibag Mapgaon 125.00 Kanakeshwar
Raigad Alibag Talwadi 14.33 Talwadi
Raigad Alibag Varvante 16.39 Bhairidevi
Raigad Dehan Dehan 17.6 Dehan
Raigad Mangaon Tilore 18.00 Bhairoba
Thane Wada Ambiste Bk. 60.5 Nagnath
Thane Wada Ambiste Bk. 44.4 Nagnath
Thane Wada Gourapur 43.7 Laxmi Narayan
Thane Wada Gunj 22.36 Bhargavnath
Thane Wada Gunj 18.87 Vajreshwari
Thane Wada Sange 37.6 Tryambakeshwar
Thane Wada Shelte 34.22 Gramdevi
Kolhapur Chandgad Bhololi 20 ----
Kolhapur Shahuwadi Ugwai 34 Ugwaidevi
Ratnagiri Chiplun Kotakwadi 27.56 ----
Ratnagiri Chiplun Pathe 13.73 ----
Ratnagiri Lanja Prabhanvalli 27.4 ----
Ratnagiri Mandangad Pat 18.01 ----
Ratnagiri Sangmeshwar Gothane 18.37 ----
Ratnagiri Sangmeshwar Gothane 16.47 ----
Ratnagiri Sangmeshwar Kinjale 13.00 Gaondev
Sindhudurg Kudal Shivapur 19.14 ----
Sindhudurg Sawantwadi Sarmale 40.65 ----
Sindhudurg Vaibhavwadi Het 31.94 ----
Sindhudurg Vaibhavwadi Karul 20.02 ----
Sindhudurg Vaibhavwadi Kumhavade 19.10 ----
Sindhudurg Vaibhavwadi Madhalwadi 19.12 ----
Sindhudurg Vaibhavwadi Mandvikar wadi 53.55 ----
by locally set principles of resource use. The con-
cept that in all sacred groves no utilization of re-
sources is permitted is an over statement based on
insufficient scrutiny on the way in which the groves
are traditionally managed. Groups of these groves
must become a part of a special category of Eco-
logically Sensitive Areas, by supporting the tradi-
tional sentiments that have led to their preservation
over several generations.
Incorporating these sites into conservation net-
works could enhance the effectiveness of PAs by
covering a wider variety of habitats and by har-
nessing the support of local people.
Most of the groves are small in size and isolated
from each other. As an ESA category their man-
agement may be entrusted to the same village in-
stitutional arrangements that have protected them
over generations. Giving them an ESA status must
be used primarily to strengthen the existing local
protective strategy that has been traditionally used
by local people. Similar groves are found in Satara,
Kolhapur and Ratnagiri Districts.
In the Dangs of Gujarat, the Bhils have their
own system of preserving trees around their sacred
totems that are situated on the road side or at some
remote site in the hills. Hot springs such as at Un-
nai in Gujarat have been insufficiently studied for
their ecology and the impact of the human activity
on these sources which is very high. A large num-
ber of people who believe that the spring water has
medicinal properties channel water through to the
tank built around this special feature. Hot springs
should be considered as special ESAs.
The study of the Bombay Natural History Soci-
ety on Conservation and development of sacred
groves in Maharshtra done in 1999 has a list of im-
portant sacrd groves that could be given an ESA
status (See table on next page). During the study
Sindhudurg Vaibhavwadi Navale 77.49 ----
Sindhudurg Vaibhavwadi Nimarule 47.35 ----
Sindhudurg Vaibhavwadi Sonali 14.17 ----
Sindhudurg Vaibhavwadi Tiavde turf. Khare 27.84 ----
Sindhudurg Vaibhavwadi Vayamboshi 14.03 ----
Kolhapur Shauwadi Kassarde 12.00 Dhopeshwar
Pune ------ Bibi 54.5 Shambhu
Pune Bhor Shirgaon 15.00 Durgadevi
Pune Junnar Junnar 20.00 Jalvandidevi
Pune Junnar Khubewadi 63.00 Khubidevi
Pune Junnar Kopare 50.00 Virobha
Pune Junnar Madh 110.58 Khandoba
Pune Junnar Pimpalgaon Joge 15.00 Kotamichidevi
Pune Junnar Taleran 14.00 Kalubai
Pune Junnar Khubi 63.00 Chedoba
Pune Maval Vahangaon 20.23 Anjubai
Pune Velhi Mangaon 18.00 Jananidevi
Pune Junnar Kolhewadi 263.00 Bhairavnath
Pune Junnar Pimpalgaon Joge 15.5 Kotmai
Ahmednagar Sangamner Ambidumala 80.00 Rokdeshwar
Sangli Atpadi Hivtad 40.00 Shukdev
Sangli Atpadi Nelkarnje 25.00 Bhimashankar
Sangli Atpadi Nelkarnje 25.00 Mhasoba
Sangli Atpadi Ramghat 25.00 Shriram
Sangli Jat Banali 20.00 Banshankari
Yeotaml Wani Khansadgaon 19.80 Pharsopen
Bhandara Bhandara Korambhi 22.00 Kalkai
Source: Deshmukh 1999
the Western Ghats region was divided into zones
based on the agroclimatic regions of Maharashtra
as used by Deshmukh (1999) (Guidelines provided
by National Agricultural Research Programme,
Planning Commission, Govt. of India). Within
these zones the sacred groves that have been pri-
oritized are given in the second table (Note: These
sacred groves are from outside the protected areas.)
River sources and hill tops have been used to
build temples for several generations. In many situ-
ations there are trees planted in their enclosures.
They act as staging sites and roosts for colonies
of birds and bats. These should be included in the
category of traditionally protected ESAs. The pres-
ence of sacred groves in cultivated landscapes can
also provide habitat and corridors, allowing the
movement of many different organisms. It is ques-
tionable whether any single sacred grove could
have conservation value, in view of the small size
of these fragmented forest patches. However, as a
network, the sacred groves in a region can preserve
a sizeable portion of the local biodiversity in areas
where it would not be feasible to maintain large
tracts of protected forests and where protected re-
serves would be unlikely to receive local support.
Such sites could play an important role in commu-
nity based conservation of biodiversity and should
therefore be included in ESA conservation strate-
The integration of sacred groves and other sa-
cred natural sites into the existing protected area
networks must take into account the local ecology
of the area, as well as the prevailing threats. As
a result, it would be unwise to prescribe a single
management approach.
In Maharashtra sacred groves are found in tribal
as well as non-tribal areas. The sacred groves in
the Western part of the state are called devrais or
devrahatis. Gadgil and Vartak documented 233
sacred groves from Thane, Raigad, Jalgaon, Pune,
Satara, Kolhapur, Yewatmal, Bhandara and Chan-
drapur districts (Gadgil and Vartak 1981). A recent
study by Bombay Natural History Society shows
existence of about 1600 SGs in Maharashtra. It
was found that almost every village in the Western
Ghats region of Maharahstra where the concept
of sacred groves has been evolved and continued
to exist for over several centuries, harboured atleast
one or more sacred grove their size ranging from
a clump of trees to a few hundred hectares (S.
Deshmukh, Gogate, and Gupta 1998).
The distribution of sacred groves overlaps with
the distribution of forests in the State. The aver-
age size of the groves is a few acres. Large groves
are found occasionally. Smaller groves in the west-
ern and eastern parts rarely allow extraction of
resource from the groves. Sacred groves form an
important landscape feature in the deforested hill
ranges of the Western Ghats of Maharashtra.
In Gujarat, twenty nine sacred groves have been
reported from Banaskantha district of Gujarat. The
sizes of the groves run from one acre to two square
kms (Ramakrishnan, Saxena, and Chandrashekara
Specialised Ecosystems
Specialized ecosystems are unique communities
of plants and animals using complex ecological
situations that have a limited range. They frequent-
ly include highly specific abiotic conditions that
strongly influence the ecosystem which supports
specialized floral and faunal elements. The com-
plexity results from mutually dependent param-
eters such as topographic features, climatic condi-
tions, soil type and the resultant biotic features that
form islands of unique landscape elements within
the Western Ghats. They are inherently fragile
due to their special nature and small size. Due to
the restricted range of their species they are eas-
ily disrupted by human activity that affects habitat
specific species. An alteration in their abiotic char-
acteristics can lead to perturbation in the entire bi-
otic community leading to a few or several local
extinctions. Such perturbations may be effected by
changes beyond the immediate surrounds of these
super sensitive ecosystems. A specialized ecosys-
tem may have a single or multiple limiting factors.
These highly specialised and fragile ecosystems
of the Ghats such as plateau tops, steep escarp-
ments, gorges, nala courses, have an intrinsically
low resilience to environmental disturbance from
a variety of human activities. As most of these
specialized ecosystems have restricted areas, or
form islands within a matrix of more robust sys-
tems, there is a need to find ways for these special
niches and their species to be preserved even as
isolated patches. As impacts keep increasing they
may require special attention towards corridoring
at even small spatial levels. On the other hand as
they are by nature found as isolated patches, there
may be special mechanisms that keep them intact
as isolated fragments as long as external pressures
are within acceptable limits.
Plateau tops such as in Panchgani have been de-
stroyed by high levels of tourism. Caves in Maha-
baleshwar which have colonies of endemic and rare
bats have been disturbed by tourists. The carrying
capacity for tourists of such specialized sites is ex-
tremely low and increasing demands for enhancing
tourism with its inherent uncontrolled disturbance
levels can lead to rapid extinction of species.
Eagles and vultures have been disturbed by rock
climbing enthusiasts as these precipices are the fa-
voured nesting sites of these birds due to the inac-
cessibility to most humans and predators. However
such challenging rock faces are also prime targets
for highly skilled climbers for the excitement of the
ascent and the fun of rappelling down on ropes.
Added to this is the impact of overenthusiastic
wildlife photographers who disturb nests dur-
ing their photographic expeditions. Such areas of
high ecological importance must be secured under
ESAs however small they may be. In fact the small-
er unique patches may be of the greatest conserva-
tion significance.
Areas that have a low resilience are related to
highly specific abiotic features such as rainfall pat-
terns, temperature variability, and/or number of
rainy days per year. They are limited by soil char-
acteristics, topographic features, patterns of land
cover and different land use categories. Any shift
in land use towards more intensive utilization can
lead to irreparable damage even if it appear to be a
minor alteration in one or more of the above abiot-
ic parameters. Once disturbed, the capacity of such
ecosystems to return to their original state can take
These are all landscape elements that have
unique floral and faunal elements on which very
limited work has been done. Making them poten-
tial ESA sites as a precautionary measure against
possible extinctions is the only way to conserve
these unique ecosystems.
The problem of notifying these specialized eco-
systems is that their identification requires to be
done at a highly localized level. Creating these
ESAs is like notifying individual cultural heritage
sites where thousands of ancient monuments that
dot the Indian landscape have been notified by the
Archaeology Department. The ability to preserve
these natural heritage micro-sites depends on the
land tenure in which they are situated. This could
be the Forest Department, the Revenue lands un-
der local tehsildars, or under Village Panchayats.
Specialized ecosystems within the Ghats are of
several types.
Old Growth Forests
Intact old growth forests in the Western Ghats
harbor several keystone species. Several of the fi-
cus species are found in the less disturbed forests
and are vital suppliers of food for frugivorous in-
sects, birds and mammals during several months
of the year when most other fruit bearing plants
do not have edible fruit. The patchy forests of the
Northern sector of the Western Ghats which have
rain only for 3 or 4 months support moisture laden
micro-climates and highly fluctuant water courses,
all of which contribute towards a highly special-
ized forest type and structure which is easily dis-
ruptedby human interferences. While it may not
be possible to put a grading scale on the level of
susceptibility to such habitats, there is enough evi-
dence to show that such regimes, especially if tra-
ditional agro-pastoral use is shifted to other forms
of land-use can lead to a rapid loss of biodiversity.
Developing new pressures which can spread their
ecologically adverse effects through the whole re-
gion in the Ghats cannot be restored for several de-
There are valleys inundated by heavy cloud
cover for prolonged periods which is known to ac-
count for a profusion of species of plants includ-
ing ground and canopy orchids, ferns and fungi.
The Father Santapeau valley at Khandala near the
Dukes Nose Point is one such example.
Large waterfalls and small cascades comprise
only a small percentage of the overall landscape
of the Western Ghats, but are of considerable eco-
logical value. The floral and faunal elements are
adapted to the torrential flow of water during the
monsoon and change to completely terrestrial con-
ditions in the rest of the year. These are found near-
ly everywhere along the western escarpment.
Plateau Tops
Exposed lateritic plateau tops are a good exam-
ples of specialized ecosystems in which endemic
and rare ground flora are linked to their specific
specialized habitats. The plateaus have a patchy
distribution and are isolated from each other by
valleys and ridges. The crest of the Western Ghats
is locally capped by lateritic plateaus at varying in-
tervals. These plateaus are well known sites having
high floristic values. Panchaganis five plateaus, the
Kas plateau near Satara and fragments of plateaus
in Mahabaleshwar are the best known examples.
(Watve and Thakur 2006) have done a great deal of
work on the vegetation patterns of the monsoonal
plants of these rocky outcrops and flat expanses of
rock that are nearly devoid of vegetation for sev-
eral months of the year but are covered by a profu-
sion of ground flora in the monsoon. The lateritic
plateau tops are examples of naturally restricted
ecosystems in the Ghats and they have floral ele-
ments that flower fruit and seed only for a brief few
weeks during the monsoon. These are thus habitats
of restricted range species. These highly special-
ized niches are sites of endemism that are used by
small restricted populations of highly specialized
species. Many of these species are probably threat-
ened by local or even global extinction. Some of the
important plateaus in the northern Western Ghats
are (personal communication, Aparna Watve).
Plateaus of the Western Ghats are all ecologi-
cally sensitive and extremely difficult to prioritize
in the absence of locale specific data. Thus the pre-
cautionary principle would apply more strongly to
this category. This is all the more so as a very small
percentage of the 160000 km2 of Western Ghats
lies within this highly unique landscape element.
Another aspect is that there are several types of
plateaus based on primarily geomorphological fac-
tors which strongly influence their mosaic of tiny
patches of monsoon flora.
Important Plateaus in the Northern Western Ghats
Location Plateau
Junnar Naneghat
Bhimashankar Ahupe
Nashik Anjeneri
Nashik Saptarshungi
Nashik Wani
Vishalgadh Zenda
These factors present a severe problem in prioriti-
zation based on good guess studies done rapidly
in the absence of a large number of authenticated
data sets. As all the different types of plateaus have
been placed here in a single category each type
must be represented. This indicates that protect-
ing a mere 10 or 20% of plateaus as ESAs would
not provide the category with a sufficient area to
conserve all their species. The types are based on
their altitude; geomorphology, vegetation commit-
tees and can be observed on the ground and from
satellite images.
Hill streams
The hill streams that alter their flow rate within
minutes of a cloudburst are specialized habitats of
molluscs, crustaceans and fish which have to alter
their movement, feeding patterns and breeding be-
haviour within very brief intervals as the flow rate
alters from a torrent to a trickle within even a few
minutes. Avifauna that feed on such aquatic inver-
tebrate species know when and how to alter their
own feeding behaviour to remain in tune with the
constant fluctuations in the availability of their
food. The Malabar Whistling thrush and the Black-
bird for example have close association with rapid-
ly flowing waterfalls and streams and are adapted
to feeding in the micro habitat and niche present in
the waterfalls that it frequents.
The Western Ghats has a main north-south ridge
with outlying west-east ridges that extend into the
Deccan between each major river watershed. The
steepness of these ridges determine the level of uti-
lization from terraced paddies, hillslope broadcast-
ed nagli and varai fields, grazing lands and unap-
proachable rocky precipices. This must be included
as an ESA.
Escarpments and Steep Slopes
The crest line of the Western Ghats constitutes a
very special geological and biological form that is
not seen elsewhere in India. The trees are gnarled
and stunted with a closed thick canopy. The pre-
cipitous escarpments of the Western Ghats have a
special ecological significance. They invariably in-
clude waterfalls, cascades and nala courses which
flow in the monsoon. As their catchments in the
mountain tops are relatively small peaks and pla-
teaus their flow rate rapidly increases in a down-
pour and equally rapidly shrinks to a trickle when
the shower abates. Some plant and animal species
are unique to these highly variable habitat condi-
tions. The catchments of the streams are covered
by forests that are dependent on high levels of pre-
cipitation. The closed forest canopy and the thick-
ness of the detritus on the forest floor hold the rain
water like a sponge. This permits greater penetra-
tion into the ground water stores which are slowly
released into the perennial streams. The detritus
preserves the evergreen forests need, not only for
retaining large quantities of water, but maintains
nutrients for forest growth and prevents soil ero-
sion of the steep slopes. As alterations in stream
flow by deforestation, or changes in the upper
catchments can have serious local and even region-
al consequences. These steep areas must constitute
a special category of ESAs. The steeper the slope
the more grave the need for an appropriate protec-
tive strategy.
The categories for slope used are: Flat- 0; Gentle
slope 2; Sloping-4; Moderately steep- 8; Steep-
14; Very steep-26; Extremely steep-45. Any area
with a slope steeper than 260 should constitute
an ESA, as it is generally considered ecologically
sensitive. On either side of a steep slope a protec-
tive buffer of 500m must be maintained to prevent
landslides along these steep and easily eroded hill
The disturbed escarpment of the Ghats along
the Mumbai-Pune expressway and the Konkan
Railway are examples where well known adequate
management principles have not been instituted
during planning, construction and follow up res-
toration that has led to years of grave ill effects
on economic social and ecological aspects. Land-
slides have been a constant feature and enormous
funds have been allocated without attending to the
root cause of the problem. This is related to inad-
equately done EIAs, lack of appreciation that the
area is of special significance and is consequently
a future hazard to lives and wellbeing of users; and
a complete disregard for preventive maintenance,
and a lack of a serious restoration of the ecology
and habitat conditions on the periphery of roads
constructed in the Western Ghats. A special cat-
egory of ESAs along the escarpment with special
provisions to address future problems should be in-
cluded in the management strategy established by
the Western Ghats Authority.
The presence of shrubland with copts of stunted
trees such as Memecylon, Jamun and Carissa are a
common occurrence. Most of these areas are due
to continual lopping for fuelwood, where the trees
are lopped year after year. The root stock is old and
the copt of shrubby growth has an old tree at its
base. If permitted to regrown, the shrubby growth
begins to grow into tree cover. This provides an op-
portunity for an ecorestoration strategy that can be
used to reform corridors between forest patches.
However, this would only be possible if such a po-
tential corridor is considered ecosensitive and pro-
vided protection during restoration.
The genesis of such areas is frequently due to
the grazing pressure of domestic anumals. Cattle
that browse along cattle trackes in the forest gradu-
ally feed on the lower branches of trees and widen
the path into small clearings. Lopping for fuelwood
and rab material removes larger branches creat-
ing a treeless patch. The root stock copices into a
shrubby growth. Fire maintains the shrub copt and
does not permit the regrowth of trees. This creates
larger and larger matrices of grass covered areas
with islands of shrubs. This finally develops into a
shrubland used by both cattle and generalist wild
Grasslands in the northern sector of the West-
ern Ghats are either natural where the soil depth
and quality is too poor to support woodland, or are
formed due to forested areas that have been cleared
for rab. During the recent past, land that has been
transferred to urban developers has been bulldozed
to reduce the slopes. Trees and shrubs have been re-
moved for construction and left fallow. These areas
have become weedy grass covered patches
Open areas of the Western Ghats in the northern
sector which have a limited soil cover are covered
by naturally occurring grasslands which have been
traditionally used for grazing by agro-pastoralists
of the Ghats. These grassy slopes are also used by
migrant shepherds who move from the Deccan to
the coastal plains feeding their flocks along their
traditional route along the hill slopes. The southern
part of the Western Ghats have shola grasslands
where the forest grows along sheltered streams
beds while the grassland patches cover the inter-
vening hill slopes. In the Northern sector there
are similar grasslands maintained by annual fires
which are used as grazing areas for the large popu-
lation of domestic livestock. These grasslands are
thus maintained by fire regimes, grazing pressure
from domestic stock and grass collection for thatch
and other purposes. The diversity of flora and fau-
na of these grasslands is high and supports several
endemic species of conservation importance. The
less disturbed natural grasslands of a considerable
size which lie outside the PAs of the Ghats should
be given the status of ESAs.
Grassland types that are uncommon in terms of
dominant or endemic species of grasses and herbs
should be given the highest importance.
Grasslands that are less grazed have a low in-
cidence of fire, include palatable species for wild-
life and domestic animals and are a valuable part
of the mosaic of vegetation patterns in the Ghats.
Those that support abundant wildlife (grazers),
and include the presence of forest corridors be-
tween large forest patches are important and could
be considered to be ESAs.
While forts in the Ghats are described as having
historical and archaeological significance and
should be protected on these grounds alone, they
invariably have high but cryptic ecological values.
The people of Maharashtra see these forts as a part
of their cultural heritage. They have been the seat
of power of the Maratha Empire that alone could
stem the expansion of the Moghul Empire into
peninsular India. While this sentiment can be used
to protect the forts, their inaccessible locations and
their forested surrounds are of equal ecological im-
portance. In historical times, the hills were devel-
oped as forts due to their extreme inaccessibility
and the availability of perennial water sources.
Their near vertical rocky formations that are sur-
rounded by belts of inaccessible vegetation formed
an impenetrable barrier to the invading Moghul
forces. The fortifications were built around lateritic
flat plateaus. They frequently had springs that had
a year round supply of water. The natural charac-
teristics of the forts thus include remoteness, inac-
cessibility due to their steep terrain, forested sur-
rounds, presence of perennial streams and flat
open lateritic plateau tops, all of which also form
special habitats for a range of plant and animal spe-
cies and landscape elements of considerable eco-
logical significance. These areas are well known
habitats for reptiles, both snakes and lizards. As
they have water sources, they are favoured by both
carnivores and herbivores especially when the
stream courses and pools on the hillslopes have be-
come dry in the summer. With only these water
sources left, the wildlife aggregates around the
tanks in the old uninhabited forts.
The forts are now more accessible due to the
development of roads for enhancing cultural tour-
ism, for communication towers and other purpos-
es. With the increasing access to these sites they
are now under severe biotic pressures. Setting aside
these forts and sequestrating them from being de-
veloped with new housing and tourist complexes
can be achieved by notifying them as special Eco-
logically Sensitive Areas.
High Precipitation Areas and Cloud Forests
The exceptionally high rainfall tracts especial-
ly those covered by low clouds that provide near
100% humidity in the Ghats must be included
as ESAs. This places special valley sectors of the
Western Ghats into an ecosensitive zone that re-
quires especially well protected areas. The south-
ern ranges which gets a year round rainfall due to
a dual monsoon from south-west and north-east
forms a tract of high conservation value. Equally
important are valleys in the northern sector where
low cloud cover during several monsoon months
provides special habitat needs for ferns, orchids,
mosses and lichens.
At the regional level topographical situations
lead to very high rainfall tracts that receive tor-
rential rain in the Northern sector of the Ghats
sucl as at Malabalcslwai, Blma Slankai, and
Matheran. It is here that the vegetation cover has
unique biological values and is of utmost impor-
tance in preventing severe erosion. Torrential rain
predisposes the region to landslides and floods af-
ter deforestation.
Species Based ESAs
Habitats of Species of Great Value
There is a serious paucity of data on the distribu-
tion range and population dynamics of the endan-
gered, endemic and highly restricted range species
in the Northern sector of the Western Ghats. For
example little is known on the status of the Mala-
bar Giant Squirrel outside the well known pockets
in the PAs such as Bhimashankar, Koyna, Chan-
doli etc. The ability of Giant Squirrel populations
to move between isolated between forest pockets is
highly unlikely. As it is primarily restricted to the
canopy level, their ability to cross gaps of a relative-
ly large size is likely to be poor at least (BORGES
1992; Borges 1993; Joshua and Johnsingh 1994).
On the other hand the status and distribution of
species such as the Lion tailed macaque, Nilgiri
Tahr and Nilgiri Langur of the southern Western
Ghats is better appreciated.
The dwindling population of vultures is yet an-
other serious concern. Their residual colonies must
be included in this important ESA category. Birds
of prey frequently use the same tree for nesting
year after year. These are not protected and are fre-
quently disturbed. Similarly the Great Pied Horn-
bills and owls nest in the same nesting hole year
after year. Bayas use the same nesting colony for
many years. Among mammals bats use the same
roosts in caves and large copts of trees.
All these individual and disaggregated sites will
need protection by local communities. Once identi-
fied the only chance of success is gaining local pub-
lic support to protect them. A strong public aware-
ness strategy is the only way to make this happen.
Any pocket outside PAs where species of special
importance are present must constitute a highly
specialized category of ESAs. Their linkage to the
PAs through natural or man-made corridors is an
important conservation concern.
Habitats of Endemic and Endangered Species
The Western Ghats forests have special floris-
tic features related with their high level of species
richness and endemicity. There are several identi-
fied centers of locally important floristic endemism
(Nair and Daniel 1986).
Apart from the well-known endemic mammals
and birds it is known to harbour endemic snakes
and other reptiles, molluscs, and insect life (Groom-
bridge, 1983).
Mammals, birds, amphibia, insects tend to have
overlapping areas referred to as congruent ende-
mism (International Council for Bird Conserva-
tion). This congruence in endemism occurs in sev-
eral vertebrates, invertebrates as well as the plants
which form their habitat. It is important to map
endemic species of plants and animals in the West-
ern Ghats and overlay their distribution patterns
on the landscape elements using a geoinformatics
platform which constitutes their specialized and
frequently restricted habitat ranges. This aspect of
congruent endemism of the Western Ghats can
also become a basis for arresting threats from al-
terations in land use by categorising these zones as
a special category of ESAs.
While it is of importance to study the range of
distribution of all the endemics it would be more
important to look for sites of endemic congruence
to give these special areas the highest level of pro-
The topographic, geological, microclimatic and
vegetation distribution pattern correlated with con-
gruent endemism is a most valuable tool in notify-
ing these sites as important ESAs.
Apart from a simple correlation of endemic taxa
it may also be possible to identify areas that have
high concentrations of rare or threatened species.
Indications of such high concentrations in even
small sized pockets must be identified by docu-
menting the more obvious endemic species such as
hornbills, rare endemic butterflies, less known rep-
tiles, amphibia, molluscs, insects, spiders etc.
Species that are easy to observe and whose abun-
dance can be estimated are better indicators than
less overt species such as cryptic endemic micro
flora and fauna, fungi and even insect life which
are generally not overtly seen in nature. Birdlife
that can be seen and heard are good indicators of
overall abundance as well as for identifying areas
where there are endemic avifaunal species.
The refuge theory suggests that there could be
small areas in the forests of the Western Ghats
where species richness and local endemism has re-
sulted from speciation in ancient geological times.
The refuges could also result from subsequent frag-
mentation of the habitat. Such areas require special
attention as there may still be unidentified species
in such small sequestrated areas within the Ghats.
There are specific patches in the Western Ghats
that are of special significance as they constitute
habitats of endangered species several of which are
on IUCNs endangered species list.
The rarity of plant life has been discussed by
many authors. Rarity can have several causes. They
may be relict old populations or recently evolved
species that are still to spread to their outer limits.
Thus there are genetic ecological geological and
historical aspects to rarity and endemism. Endem-
ic species are related to a geographical area, have
a limited ecological breadth and are seen in rela-
tively more isolated areas from each other. Moun-
tains are known to be rich in endemic species often
related to soil characteristics and microclimates.
Waterfalls, stream sides and pools form local micro
climatic conditions increasing diversity of plants.
This also supports local endemics with their niche
requirements (Kruckeberg and Rabinowitz 1985).
In the Northern Western Ghats the well-known
mammals include the tiger and the lesser cats. Of
special importance is the Rusty Spotted Cat (Con-
servation Status: Vulnerable) that has been seen in
a few locations by observers (personal observation
by Bharucha, Solanki and Worah). The most fre-
quent sightings in the wild are from Sanjay Gan-
dhi National Park where two were trapped a few
decades ago. Another location where the species
has been seen is in the Dang forests of Gujarat. At
least three live specimens have been collected in the
last three or four years. These have been bred at the
zoo at Sanjay Gandhi National Park. These three
kittens have grown into adults. These are the only
Rusty Spotted Cats being successfully bred apart
from those from Sri Lanka which are being bred in
Frankfurt zoo in Germany.
The Giant Squirrel of the Dangs which was
golden yellow has not been seen over the last four
or five decades. The Giant squirrel (Conservation
Status: Near Threatened) is seen in small numbers
in the patches of forests with very dense canopies
in the Ghats from Kalsubai to the PAs of Goa.
Among the herbivores of the Northern sector
the Mouse Deer (Conservation Status: Least Con-
cern) is less frequently seen than were observed a
few decades ago. The large hornbills, such as the
Malabar Pied Hornbill and the Great Pied Horn-
bill (Conservation Status: Near Threatened) which
are rare and endangered are found in small patches
distributed in the more intact forests. The popula-
tion of birds such as green pigeons, barbets, wood
peckers appear to have dwindled in most parts of
the Ghats. Their populations however seem to be
more stable in the PAs. However there are no quan-
tified studies done in the northern sector to be able
to know for certain the population trends of these
hill forest birds over the last few decades. There ap-
pears to be a depletion in the abundance of night-
jars outside the Protected Areas in many parts of
the Ghats during the last three or four decades.
Vultures are severely threatened and only a few
pockets in high elevations are observed in different
isolated patches in the Ghats. Even here, numbers
are down to 5 and 6 birds where once there were
The BNHS and other organizations have studied
the frogs and reptiles in the Ghats. However these
consist of taxonomic studies and are not focused
on ecological and population trends that are so vi-
tal for taking appropriate and timely conservation
The only way to counter this uncertainty is to
create ESAs wherever there are known populations
of endemic or endangered groups of species.
Chandoli has less than 1% of the geographical
area of Maharashtra but it supports nearly 30% of
the total number of woody species recorded from
the Western Ghats of Maharashtra (Kanade et al.
2008). Chandoli is a Wildlife Sanctuary with very
low levels of impacts which has recently seen a
return of a small tiger population after several de-
cades. (Imam, Kushwaha, and Singh 2009; Rithe
and Fernandes 2002)
Habitats of Restricted Range Species
Restricted range species of the Western Ghats
include several well-known mammals such as the
Lion Tailed Macaque, the Nilgiri Langur, Grizzled
Giant Squirrel, birds such as Great Pied hornbill
and the Malabar Pied Hornbill which are found in
restricted ranges. Frequently these species have a
few separate small habitats and are isolated from
each other.
Any species which has a range less than 50 sq.
km. within the Ghats should be considered as a
restricted range species and the area considered
a special ESA category. Quantitative data on habi-
tat distribution are lacking on species such as for
example the Malabar Brown Civet. It is possible
that montane species distributions of the Ghats are
related to highly specific habitat variables that have
not been studied for taxa such as bats, small mam-
mals, and several others.
Paucity of data on range and abundance or rar-
ity of especially the less obvious species is a seri-
ous limitation in creating a crucially vital ESA to
prevent extinctions. Thus while the more overt spe-
cies may find a place in ESAs, less easily observed
species could be left out of the planning of ESAs
in the Ghats. The precautionary principle must be
applied in this situation and any likelihood or sus-
picion of a record of a less known species should
be used in creating ESAs.
A special feature of the Western Ghats is the re-
stricted range of flora of the basaltic and lateritic
plateau tops. Examples include the five plateaus of
Panchgani, the plateau at Wilson Point in Maha-
baleshwar, Kas and the other plateaus near Satara,
and those near Panhala and Kolhapur all of which
have important floral elements. Any interference or
changes in the texture of the rock layer of the later-
itic crust that has multiple holes and cervices, with
only a very thin layer of soil, can disrupt this sensi-
tive ecosystem. The rarer monsoon plants grow in
small patches barely a few sq. meters in size. They
are seen in a matrix of more abundant species of
herbs, utricularia and grasses. These plateau tops
constitute a special habitat that needs urgent pres-
ervation as ESAs (Watve and Thakur 2006). There
are probably a large number of restricted range spe-
cies about which we have no data and thus will be
unable to include these in the selection of ESAs.
With increasing levels of data several species may
be included in this group resulting in creating new
ESAs progressively. A few examples of such re-
stricted range species have begun to emerge.
Presently Cnemaspis kolhapurensis is known
only from the south central part of the northern
Western Ghats. Based on the extent of the degrad-
ed semi-evergreen type forest patch which extends
into Belgaum and South Goa district, it is possible
that C. kolhapurensis could also be found through-
out (Giri, Bauer, and Gaikwad 2009) Other species
that currently show restricted range include Hemi-
dactylus, Uropeltis bicatenata and more than seven
diverse species of caecilians.
Sinhagad and Amboli in Maharshtra have been
described by the IUCN as wholly irreplaceable for-
ests due to Millardia kondana (Mishra and Dhan-
da 1975) and Philautus Amboli (Biju and Bossuyt
2009) respectively.
Important Bird Areas
The Important Bird Areas Program (IBA) is a
global effort to identify and conserve areas that are
vital to birds and other biodiversity. IBAs that have
been identified by Bombay Natural History Soci-
ety in the Western Ghats include primarily all the
existing National Parks (NP) and Wildlife Sanctu-
aries (WLS) (Rahmani and Islam 2004). The non-
protected area identified in the northern Western
Ghats is in INS Shivaji and the surrounding hills
of Lonavala.
IBAs are good indicators of overall biological
wealth. Hill birds in the Western Ghats are specific
to this evergreen and semi evergreen forest ecosys-
tem which is characterized by a high rainfall of
over 5000 mm. The avifaunal communities in these
distinctive biogeographic entities are a characteris-
tic feature of this region.
Avifauna is reasonably well documented in many
Protected Area and IBAs. However the paucity of
data outside PAs makes it difficult to select ESAs
outside the chain of Protected Areas. As birdlife is
a good indicator of biodiversity richness and ende-
micity this is an excellent tool for identifying the
existence of viable corridors in the Ghats section
that should be considered as a special category of
There are 345 bird species, including 5 near-en-
demic species that are found in the montane forest
Site Number of Species Coordinates Land use Threats
2 3 1 5 195928N
Tourism and recreation
Livestock grazing
Tourism and recreation
Livestock grazing
Man-animal conflicts
Fuel wood collection
Commercial development
Plastic consumption by animals
and Lonavala
1 2 8 184610N
Defence establishment
Reserve forest
Roads and railway lines
Hydroelectric project
Roads and railways
Land development
Koyna WLS 2 1 2 173826N
Nature Conservation
Hydroelectric project
Dam construction
Hydroelectric project
Exploitation of medicinal plants
2 1 2 162260N
Sanjay Gandhi
2 5 1 191835N
Nature Conservation
and research
Livestock grazing
Man-animal conflicts
Fuel wood collection
Illegal tree felling
Anti-social elements
Tansa WLS 2 1 193118N
Nature Conservation
Catchment area of
Livestock grazing
Illegal tree felling
Expansion of agriculture
Bhagwan Ma-
havir WLS
2 6 151932N
Nature Conservation
Tourism and recreation
Tourism and recreation
Cotigao WLS 1 1 6 145904N
Nature Conservation Encroachment
Mhadei WLS 1 7 153734N
Nature Conservation Poaching
1 2 152260N
Irrigation Urbanization
Important Bird Areas in the Northern Western Ghats (Source: (Rahmani and Islam 2004))
Scientific Name Common Name Status
Gyps bengalensis Oriental White-Backed Vulture Critically Endangered
Gyps indicus Long-billed Vulture Critically Endangered
Leptoptilos javanicus Lesser Adjutant Vulnerable
Haliaeetus leucoryphus Pallas Fish Eagle Vulnerable
Aquila clanga Greater Spotted Eagle Vulnerable
Falco naumanni Lesser Kestrel Vulnerable
Rynchops albicollis Indian Skimmer Vulnerable
Columba elphinstonii Nilgiri Wood-Pigeon Vulnerable
Schoenicola platyura Broad-tailed Grass Warbler Vulnerable
Circus macrourus Pallid Harrier Near Threatened
List of Threatened Bird Species in the northern Western Ghats (Source: (Rahmani and Islam 2004))
eco region. However, they are patchily distributed.
The better (less disturbed) patches of a consider-
able size must find a place in this ESA category.
This shows that endemic avifauna require as
much attention as rare or vulnerable species as they
occur nowhere outside the Western Ghats. Areas
where these birds are found in even small patches
with reasonably appreciable numbers must be in-
cluded as ESAs.
The globally threatened Spot-billed Pelican (Pele-
canus philippensis) and Lesser Florican (Eupodotis
indica) are or have been a part of the ecoregions
bird community. The Malabar grey hornbill (Ocy-
ceros griseus), Indian grey hornbill (Ocyceros bi-
rostris), and Great Hornbill (Buceros bicornis) re-
quire mature high forests for nesting and are a focal
species for conservation. The ecoregion overlaps
with an EBA, Western Ghats, identified by Bird-
Life International. However, relative to the south-
ern part of the Western Ghats, the northern parts
have been poorly surveyed (World Wildlife Fund
and McGinley).
Habitats of Wild Edible Plants and Wild Rela-
These habitats indicating high levels of ecologi-
cal sensitivity are less important but should be con-
sidered to be ESAs in the Ghats on a case to case
basis. These include areas that contain wild rela-
tives of food plants. Several studies need to be initi-
ated to identify grasses, fruiting shrubs and trees
which have been used by local people as there are
edible, such as Carissa.
Jamun and Mango are good examples of trees
that grow naturally in the Northern Western Ghats.
Their taste and other attributes vary from those
which are cultivated. As we do not know which
attribute will be of use in future these wild varieties
must be preserved.
Carissa shrubs give fruit that ranges from sour to
sweet and even tasteless in different shrubs. They
even vary in size and the amount of pulp. Their
genetic variability is extremely high, and this needs
to be preserved. The plant also has a great potential
to make jams and preserves.
Another potential use is the flowering species of
plants such as orchids and ground flora such as the
curcumas whose utilization as garden plants has
been ignored even though they are exceptionally
Habitats Supporting Migration
The birds of the Western Ghats have both resi-
dent and migrant species. Several of these hill forest
birds are similar to species found in the Himalayas.
Bird distribution studies show that several species,
or their subspecies, are found both in the Ghats
and the north and east Himalayas as discontinu-
ous populations (Hora 1953; Ali 1949). This phe-
nomenon of two distinct isolated populations has
been ascribed to ancient linkages through a range
of mountains that has now disappeared. Similar
evidence is found in the fish fauna of hill streams
of the Ghats and the Himalayas in the North East
Movements of several taxa have not been studied
in detail. The migration southward of hill birds
through the Ghats during winter is a major rea-
son to protect a corridor of forests from Gujarat
through to Kerala. Migration of resident birds also
shows a North-South seasonal movement. Several
hill forest species move from a lower to a higher
elevation in summer for breeding during the mon-
soon. In winter they move down into the valleys
to avoid the cold and move back into the crestline
forest in summer.
Bird such as thrushes, babblers and flycatchers
move to and from favoured breeding areas in the
hills. Herons and egrets which use specific roosting
colonies in the Western Ghats also have seasonal
local migrations into low lying areas on the coast.
The movement patterns, several of which have
been insufficiently documented, are integral to the
maintenance of bird populations of the Ghats.
This is a special ESA category that supports Im-
portant Bird Areas, or IBAs of the Western Ghats
(Rahmani and Islam 2004).
Colonies and Breeding Sites of Fauna
There are several birds and bats whose popula-
tions are dependent on forming colonies for roost-
ing and breeding. These include several endangered
birds such as storks and vultures. Heronries which
are dependent on large colonies constitute impor-
tant locations that must be included in small ESAs.
A minor disturbance can lead to these birds aban-
doning their colonies never to return. Colony nest-
ers require an optimum population for successful
breeding. Several such nesting sites are associated
with large trees in village surrounds along the foot-
hills of the Ghats. Colonies of storks, ibis, spoon-
bills, cormorants, egrets etc. are associated with
copts of tall trees where they nest year after year.
The trees act as their traditional nursery, However
the feeding ground is linked to wetlands or rivers
which may be several kilometers away where the
parents gather food for their nestlings. The to and
fro movement from the colony may fan out to sev-
eral important feeding areas where fish crustacea
and molluscs abound, or to a single stretch of un-
disturbed river or a marsh. The feeding grounds
should also be considered as part of the ESA. There
are cryptic ecological reasons for the birds to select
a specific patch of trees to build their nests. The
nesting sites require special protection along with
their identified feeding zones to protect their popu-
lations. Protecting the small copts of trees can only
be done through local support. Public awareness is
a key to their protection.
Bats that belong to several species live in colonies
of which at least two are endangered in the West-
ern Ghats (Korad, Yardi, and Raut 2007). The bat
colonies which are found in caves and on excep-
tionally large old trees in the Ghats are a cause for
concern. Their population distribution in the West-
ern Ghats has not been identified.
The endangered vultures have selected roosts
and nesting colonies on steep rocky cliffs. Each and
every site however small must be protected as an
ESA as a last ditch stand to prevent the complete
extinction of the depleted vulture colonies. Finan-
cially protecting the residual population of vultures
in their colonies in-situ is cheaper that the expense
incurred in breeding and managing them in ex-situ
conservation facilities.
Breeding streams of Western Ghats fish such as
the Mahaseer require protection. Mahaseer are al-
ready gravely endangered and will become extinct
if their breeding micro niches in the streams of
Western Ghats are disturbed or polluted further.
The Deccan Mahaseer was known to move from
rivers into the hill streams during the monsoon to
spawn in the 1950s. Dams and other impediments
have reduced their breeding sites leading to a dras-
tic fall in their population. The Mahaseer which is
now highly endangered once bred profusely in such
streams and moved eastwards into rivers of the
Deccan as adults. This has been severely curtailed.
In many sites where breeding once occurred the
species is locally extinct. A major ex-situ breeding
program run by Tata Power Company at Lonawala
restocks their hydel lakes with these fish. There is a
possibility that these fish have begun to breed again
spontaneously in some of the less silted streams
around the lakes.
The large number of small fresh water fish of the
streams of the Western Ghats choose special breed-
ing sites and move towards clear streams during the
monsoon to spawn. Such sites are currently outside
the Protected Area network of the Ghats. Identify-
ing these local sites will require a large scientifically
done status survey to identify these micro-ecologi-
cally sensitive areas (Arunachalam 2000).
A locale specific management profile for such ar-
eas can only be effective with localized initiatives to
prevent impacts on these hot specks of ESAs. Pub-
lic awareness strategies and involvement of local
school students could go a long way in identifying,
protecting, monitoring and sustainable develop-
ment of a long-term conservation strategy through
notifying a set of special micro-eco-sensitive areas
for faunal breeding sites.
here are various tools described to priori-
tize ESAs. For the Western Ghats, there are
two concerns. The first relates to prioriti-
zation within each category of ESA. The other is
prioritization between the different categories. Ob-
viously not all ESAs are equally ecologically sen-
sitive. However, it must be kept in mind that the
whole of the Western Ghats is in fact a globally
recognised hot spot of biological diversity. No area
in the Ghats section can be considered essentially
a robust area.
Das et al 2006 describe areas of high conserva-
tion value which were identified in the Western
Ghats using a systematic conservation planning
approach. They chose surrogates which were as-
sessed for effectiveness on the basis of spatial con-
gruence using Pearsons correlations and Mantels
tests. The surrogates were, threatened and endemic
plant and vertebrate species, unfragmented forest
areas, dry forests, sub-regionally rare vegetation
types, and a remotely sensed surrogate for unique
evergreen ecosystems. The author has shown that
at the scale of this analysis, amphibian richness
was most highly correlated with overall threatened
and endemic species richness, whereas mammals,
especially wide-ranging species, were better at cap-
turing overall animal and habitat diversity. There
was a significant relationship between a remote
sensing based habitat surrogate and endemic tree
diversity and composition. None of the taxa or
habitats served as a complete surrogate for the oth-
ers. Sites were prioritised on the basis of their ir-
replaceability value using all five surrogates. Two
alternative reserve networks are presented, one
with minimal representation of surrogates, and the
second with 3 occurrences of each species and 25%
of each habitat type. These networks cover 8% and
29% of the region respectively. Seventy per cent of
the completely irreplaceable sites are outside the
current Protected Area network. This observation
is of great importance as ESAs outside the PA net-
work would help protect these key conservation
sites in the Western Ghats. While the existing Pro-
tected Area network meets the minimal represen-
tation target for 88% of the species chosen in this
study and all habitat surrogates, it is not represen-
tative with regard to amphibians, endemic tree spe-
cies and small mammals. Much of the prioritised
unprotected area is under Reserve Forests and can
thus be incorporated into a wider network of con-
servation areas.
Prioritisation of areas and consequentially with-
in a PA network or the future network of ESAs in
the Western Ghats is a major concern for manage-
ment. It must entertain issues related to cost benefit
analysis, the serious impacts of industry and busi-
ness strategies, the need for eco restoration versus
simple protection, ecodevelopment for the local
people and monitoring and evaluating long term
effects of positive and protective land-use change
and possibilities of further degradation.
Economic valuation methods for biological as-
sets are a means towards prioritization at different
spatial levels and for genetic, species and different
landscape elements. These tools and principles
for managing a network of ESAs can become a
basis for setting of priority areas within the West-
ern Ghats. Valuations based on purely economic
terms however are often questioned as there are di-
rect and indirect benefits especially related to the
various functions that are inherent in the different
types or categories of ESAs. For example PAs con-
serve genetic species in the ecosystem structure and
function. Catchment areas protect water resources.
Agriculture in the Ghats means food security for
the poor. Devrais are intrinsic to societal and
religious needs. These are a few examples that
make economic value based decisions in prioritiz-
ing ESAs extremely complex (Nunes and van den
Bergh 2001). Pierce et al. 2005 bring out the need
for Systematic (target-driven) conservation plan-
ning products. This includes developing maps and
guidelines and the use of stakeholder inputs.
While at larger spatial scales it is possible to use
IUCNs, PAs ranked in terms of management ob-
jectives from I to VI and Management Effectiveness
Evaluations which are being done in India over the
last few years. These do not however provide the
fine nuances required for developing management
strategies for the different categories of ESAs of
the Western Ghats.
Margules, Pressey, and Williams 2002 point out
the importance of sampling the known biodiversity
of a region and separating biodiversity from pro-
cess that threatens its presence. ESAs apart from
being prioritized in the Western Ghats must also
look at issues such as uniqueness and representa-
tiveness. Scoring systems based on diversity, rarity,
naturalness, endangered and endemic species size
and vulnerability of the habitat have all been used
to indicate priority areas for conservation.
Early attempts in India, (Bharucha 1996) were
used as a basis by the Maharashtra Forestry Sector
Project for the PA network in Maharashtra.
In the ESA network for the Western Ghats the
need to prioritize carefully is even greater than for
PAs as the whole area cannot be given a single man-
agement strategy. As Margules and Pressey suggest
conservation planning has generally not been sys-
tematic and new reserves have often been located
in places that do not contribute to the representa-
tion of biodiversity. (Margules and Pressey 2000)
Within each category a prioritization can be
made based on a variety of characteristic features
that indicate its level of importance. This is more
difficult when one has to compare between differ-
ent categories. The most simple characteristics in-
clude the 3S s of Siting, Size, Shape. Other char-
acteristics include interior to border ratio, linkage
to the same or other category, and level of intact-
ness and inclusion of unique features. Levels of in-
tegrity, fragility and high levels of threat decrease
effectiveness and increase costs.
An ESA within the boundaries of the West-
ern Ghats is better than one that is at the pe-
riphery or close to the edge.
An ESA that is directly contiguous to anoth-
er is better than one that is connected by a
corridor or is surrounded by gaps.
An ESA that is contiguous with its own cat-
egory which is adjacent to it is likely to be
better than one that is linked to some other
category as it is corridored for the same rath-
er than different species making the corridor
more useful.
Broadly linked patches of the same category
are better than those connected by short nar-
row corridors which are better than those
connected by long corridors even if they pass
through a different category of ESA as spe-
cies communities are different.
The well-known effect of island biogeogra-
phy and its more recent ramifications is an
important characteristic to prioritize ESAs
within the same category. However, even
small islands are of value as jump stations
for migrant bird species.
Large size that includes several West to East
forest types is better than those having a small
size in a single forest type.
Large size would usually contain a better in-
terior fringe ratio as the type of interior spe-
cies are likely to be rarer and are endemics or
unique species rather than fringe generalists
that are more robust and can adapt better to
man modified habitats.
A more or less circular, square, or rectangu-
lar regular shape is better taken an irregular
shape with finger like protrusions, as interior
to edge ratios are better and they invariably
contain less disturbed interiors.
Interior edge boarder ratios are primar-
ily governed by the 3Ss mentioned above.
However the inclusion even of a relatively
inadequate and disturbed ESA is better than
none, as the site may be crucial to corridor-
ing and it could be used as a restorative site
for better long-term connectivity in future.
We have used the term fragile for ecosystems
that are likely to be seriously impacted by the
slightest disturbance to their ecosystem. Such areas
are invariably small in extent highly diverse, con-
tain rarer threatened and several endemics which
are vulnerable or threatened by extinction.
Sensitive ecosystems are easily disturbed but
may be capable of withstanding short and small
perturbation to their environments in comparison
to the more fragile systems. Ecosensitive areas are
primarily related to evergreen forests the best ex-
amples being within the cores of National Parks.
They also include areas of special importance on
account of the small or relict populations of flo-
ral communities such as in semi evergreen forests,
plateau tops and other significantly unique assem-
blages of flora and fauna.
Relict populations refer to ecosystems that are
likely to have had a wider range than at present.
Evolutionary, climatic or human induced altera-
tions due to effects of climate change or habitat
degradation from overuse or misuse has greatly re-
duced their erstwhile extent in the Ghats.
Highly fragile areas where restoration may
not be feasible and ecosystems that harbour
several endangered species, or endemic spe-
cies. They are the best examples of highest
value in their own category.
Fragile areas are ecosystems that can be re-
verted through high cost ecorestorative strat-
egies and harbour some endangered or en-
demic species and constitute the best known
second level within each category.
Highly sensitive areas that are mostly large
areas that cover a considerable position of
the Ghats but require special care and avoid-
ance of certain types of pressures while per-
mitting some selected activities on a case to
case bases.
Sensitive areas where restoration is now un-
feasible, which can be used for multiple se-
lected purposes but cannot be used for any
damaging landuse change.
Robust Sensitive Highly Sensitive Fragile
Not present is the Western
Ghats as it is a global hot-
spot of biodiversity. Resil-
ient systems are absent.
Sensitive area needs some
protection MUA for sus-
tainable use, some changes
in landuse permissible only
for local peoples long term
Require high levels of
protection MUA for
sustainable use at a very
minimized level
Management Strategy:
Areas for non-use. Suitable
for WLS or corridoring
and/or ecorestoration
No more utilization or alter-
nate uses permissible.
Management Strategy:
An Attempted Prioritization Exercise
This section attempts to discuss prioritization
factors that need to be considered in the process of
identifying ecosensitive areas, when adequate data
is available. Here, an exercise has been attempted to
identify potential ecosensitive zones based on exist-
ing secondary data using GIS. This aspect must
thus be kept in mind while interpreting the results.
Review of literature has revealed that the data
needed for an exercise of this kind is extremely lim-
ited. Most species data that is available give very
broad descriptions of areas, mostly in terms of Ta-
lukas or PAs or RF areas. However species related
data is an important criterion for identifying of
ESAs. The Biodiversity Information System por-
tal set up by the Department of Space and Depart-
ment of Biotechnology maintained by the Indian
Institute of Remote Sensing, Dehradun is a good
starting point for such a database and needs to be
used in fine tuning the results of the present study.
Due to the limited availability of data, this study
has used the Taluka boundaries as the basic unit for
prioritizing zones on a landscape level. The Taluka
is also the administrative unit for managing ESAs
in the future. Based on the availability of data this
basic unit could be narrowed down to a village,
block, etc. The results are thus only indicative and
need a detailed ground survey for finalization and
identification of specific sites within these Talukas.
The study has primarily relied on data provided
by the Indian Institute of Remote Sensing, Deh-
radun for the base maps of landuse cover, frag-
mentation and disturbance of the northern West-
ern Ghats. Taluka boundaries have been obtained
from Survey of India. The PA boundaries are ap-
proximate boundaries digitized on the basis of
data available at BVIEER and that provided by the
Wildlife Institute of India. Catchment areas have
been extracted from Google images. The Aster
DEM was used for extracting elevation. The spe-
cies data has been compiled from various sources
and have been indicated at the end of each table
in the report. These have chiefly included reports
and publications of the Botanical Survey of India,
the Zoological Survey of India, the ENVIS Cen-
tres, the French Institute, Pondicherry, the Gujarat
Ecological Society and published work of several
individuals across the country.
Protected Areas
National Parks and Wildlife Sanctuaries and
their adjacent buffers with a core and a larger buf-
fer ESA form a unit for management. In some
situations the ESA around the Protected Area cov-
ers the full width of the Western Ghats. In such
situations the ESA must evidently permit certain
activities while disallowing others. For example
traditional landuse such as agriculture and lim-
ited grazing would be permitted but no new lan-
duse such as urbanization can be permitted. In a
low priority situation decisions would have to be
carefully made on possible future impacts based on
a cumulative carrying capacity study rather than
single project wise EIA.
The PAs in the Northern Western Ghats were
prioritized based on three parameters, namely their
size, area-perimeter ratio and the forest type. The
total weight for the PA was an average of these three
parameters. The forest cover was given weights us-
ing the above methodology while size and area pe-
rimeter ratios were given weights from 10 (highest)
to 1 (lowest) based on the calculations. Each Ta-
luka was then assigned the PA weight according to
the PAs it contained.
High Low
Protected Area Size
(More than
300 km2)
Small (50-
100 km2)
Very Small
(Less than
50 km2)
Protected Area Shape: Area to Perimeter Ratio
with core
with core
Forest Type
Semi Ever-
Moist De-
Dry De-
The following is a list of protected areas catego-
rized by ecological and threat value
1. Chandoli
2. Bhimashankar
3. Karnala
4. Mhadei
5. Cotigaon
6. Radhanagari
7. Koyna
8. Phansad
9. Kalsubai
10. SGNP
11. Mollem
12. Bondla
13. Bhagwan_M
14. Tansa
15. Purna
16. Vansda
Protected Area Surrounds
This is going to be increasingly problematic and
for any such PAs the 10 Km Surrounding ESAs
must be given the highest priority in this category.
Examples include the neighbourhood mining activ-
ities of Radhanagari at the fringe of the Protected
Area. The slum outside Sanjay Gandhi National
Park and Mumbai itself makes the 10 km Zone ap-
pears to be a no-win situation. There are no fringe
areas in some of these locations. They are difficult
to rate during prioritizing within a category.
This gives a very high priority status to a sur-
rounding or adjacent ESA. Examples of important
locations for these ESAs abound in the southern
Western Ghats such as habitats of Nilgiri tahr,
Nilgiri languor, Lion tailed macaque. In the north-
ern Western Ghats consider the Rusty spotted cat
known from only two or three PAs with small
populations. Isolated patches of old growth forests
(RF or Sacred Groves) with Malabar Giant Squir-
rel may exist. The ESA surrounds of these PAs
are of greater importance in the northern Western
Ghats due to a lack of interconnectedness. As a ten
km zone around each Protected Area is a notified
ESA, a buffer was drawn around each PA and a
similar method followed for assigning weights to
the ESA. Areas overlapping the buffers were sepa-
rated out and then used for calculation. The ESA
weights for a Taluka were averaged and calculated
based on their percentage coverage in the Taluka.
High Low
Level of Disturbance
Partly Dis-
Forest Type
Semi Ever-
Moist De-
Dry De-
The following is a list of PA surrounds ranked by
ecological and threat value
1. Mollem WLS
2. Mhadei WLS
3. Chandoli WLS
4. Cotigaon WLS
5. Bhagwan Mahavir WLS
6. Radhanagari WLS
7. Phansad WLS
8. Bondla WLS
9. Koyna WLS
10. Bhimasankar WLS
11. Karnala WLS
12. Vansda NP
13. Tansa WLS
14. Kalsubai WLS
15. Sanjay Gandhi NP
16. Purna WLS
Hill Stations
Hill stations can be prioritized using the following
High Low
Intactness and Notification
fied Recog-
fied Unrec-
Forest Type
Semi Ever-
Moist De-
Dry De-
Reserve and Closed Canopy Forest
The larger forest patches must be prioritized as
they probably contain a higher proportion of forest
interior species. This would have to be done for all
forest types evergreen, semi evergreen and moist
Using the base vegetation map of the IIRS, areas
consisting of evergreen, semi evergreen, moist de-
ciduous, dry deciduous, shrubland, grassland were
extracted for every Taluka and weights given based
on the respective percentage cover in each Taluka.
The weights were given on a scale of 10 with ev-
ergreen having the highest and shrubland having
the lowest. These ranks have been based on the fact
that evergreen, semi evergreen and moist decidu-
ous forests are likely surrogates for high species di-
High Low
Forest Cover
Forest Type
Semi Ever-
Moist De-
Dry De-
Water Bodies
As these are envisioned as Multiple Use Areas
the highest priority should go to those that have
steeper slopes and more erode-able sides. Those
with paddy lands within them should not be per-
mitted to use land for alternate land use unless cer-
tified by the Western Ghats Authority as sustain-
able in environmental, (ecological) societal and
long-term economic terms. Catchments were pri-
oritised based on their forest cover as described
above as well as their elevation. Highest elevations
were given a weight of ten. The catchments weights
for a Taluka were averaged and calculated based on
their percentage coverage in the Taluka.
High Low
Forest Type
Semi Ever-
Moist De-
Dry De-
The following is a list of dam catchments ranked
by biodiversity value
1. Supra
2. catchment
3. Shirowata
4. Temghar
5. Varasgaon
6. Dodamarg
7. Uksan
8. Bhandardara
9. Dimbe
10. Selaulim
11. Pavana
12. Mulshi
13. Panshet
14. Pimpalgaonjoga
15. Valvhan
16. Manikdoh
17. Bhatgar
18. Thokarwadi
19. Chapet
20. Vadaj
21. Warana
22. Chaskaman
23. Chandolilake
24. Shivaji SG
25. Bhama
26. Urmodi
27. Tulsisagar
28. Dhom dam
29. Khadakvasla
30. Doodhgangasagar
31. Mukhane
32. Chitri
33. Karanj
34. Jangamhatti
35. Salher
36. Yedgaon
37. Kanher
38. Punegaon
39. Ganagasagar
40. Kadava
Specialized Habitats
These are essentially small but are of high prior-
ity status. Examples include the largest and least
disturbed sacred groves and plateau tops.
Specialized ecosystems (plateau tops, and water-
falls for example) are relatively small but at multiple
locations. They cannot be placed in a few ESAs as
they are widely spread out and are included in mul-
tiple ESA categories. Prioritizing such hot speck
locations for sufficiently long term possibilities for
survival of their species will require a completely
new thinking from traditional concepts of manag-
ing an interlinked and corridored network of PAs.
Many such factors which have been observed
in the northern Western Ghats will have to be run
through prioritization exercises by groups of spe-
cialists and ecological experts.
For example we know that the Malabar Giant
Squirrel is found in small pockets where cano-
pies are intact. But protecting only a few locations
makes little sense as this squirrel has several varia-
tions in coloration all of which require protection
in ESAs.
The BNHS list of prioritized sacred groves devel-
oped by the BNHS (Deshmukh, 1999) for Maha-
rashtra was used for this purpose. There has been
no such prioritized list available for Goa although
a list of groves in each Taluka is available with Goa
Forests are known to harbour several important
species and also have a high cultural heritage value.
As only a list of forts was available and no priori-
tization was done, this weight was done on a pres-
ence/absence basis for each Taluka.
High Low
High Biodi-
Low Diver-
Cultural Heritage
High Low
Sacred Groves Size
High Low
Sacred Groves Number
>10 10-8 7-5 4-2 1
Each Taluka was given weights for elevation as
follows based on percentage coverage.
Presence Absence
The following is a partial list of forts in and
around the Northern Western Ghats.
Name Height Base Village District Highlights
Ratangad 4255 Ratanwadi Ahmednagar Pond
Name Height Base Village District Highlights
dragad 4671 Khireshwar Ahmednager Cave
Jivdhan 3754 Ghatghar Pune Forest
Prasannagad3495 Chavand Pune Grassy
Shivneri 3342 Junnar Pune
Bhairavgad 2835 Durgwadi Satara Forest
Hadsar 4687 Hadsar Pune Cave
Nimgiri 3635 Bagadwadi Pune
Narayangad 2872 Khodadgaon Pune Plantation
3855 Palu Pune Forest
Gorakhgad 2137 Dehari Thane Eucalyptus
Siddhagad 3223 Narivali Thane Cave
kar 3296 Khandas Pune Forest
Padar 2002 Padarwadi Pune Plateau
ligad 1550
Jambrukh Raigad Grassy
Tungi 2019
Jambrukh Raigad Cave
Dhak 2320 Sandshi Raigad Plateau
Bhimgad 803 Vadap Raigad
Name Height Base Village District Highlights
Rajmachi 2710 Kondivde Pune
Lohgad 3412 Malawali Pune Cave
Visapur 3567 Patangaon Pune Cave
Tikona 3580 Tikona Peth Pune Cave
Tung 3526 Tungwadi Pune
Korigad 3049
pur Pune Cave
Telbaila 3322 Telbaila Pune Rockface
Ghangad 2565 Ekole Raigad Cave
Borapgad 2030 Dhondase Raigad Plateau
Sparse Veg-
Sarasgad 1433 Pali Raigad Rockface
Kurdugad 2021 Jite Raigad Rockface
Sinhagad 4320 Kondhana Pune Cave
Rajgad Vajeghar Pune Plateau
Torna 4604 Velhe Pune Nedhe
Lingana 2979 Paane Raigad Rockface
Raigad 2829 Pachad Raigad Cave
4422 Narayanpur Pune
Name Height Base Village District Highlights
Malhargar 3166 Sonori Pune Plantation
Rohida 3661 Bazarwadi Pune
4269 Korle Pune Plateau
Kamalgad 4522 Tupewadi Satara Rockface
Chandragad 2257 Dhavle Raigad Forest
Kangori 2465
di Raigad Grassy
Pratapgad 3556 Satara Forest
gad 4064 Hatlot Satara Forest
Vasota 3614 Met Indavali Satara Forest
Chakdev 3230 Chakdev Satara
Rasalgad 1769 Rasalwadi Satara
3090 Dahivali Ratnagiri Forest
Habitats of Threatened Species
For our purposes of managing ESAs, a relatively
simple prioritization that can achieve sustainability
trends should have the aim of providing shelter to
all rare species. A rare species with low abundance
may be known from a single or only a couple of lo-
cations. Such a location must be put on a high pri-
ority listing and any pressures must be minimized
such as grazing or fire and no new pressures should
be permitted such as urbanization or road building.
Rare species may be highly endemic, endangered
or threatened. IUCNs categorization may be used
for prioritization in such a situation. In the West-
ern Ghats there is a gap in knowledge as there are
species listings based only on floras where exact
locations are unknown or only occasionally docu-
mented. This makes prioritization imminently im-
possible. Here the precautionary principle and
the possibility of other rare taxa being present in
the same location must be currently applied. Sev-
eral rare taxa may in all probability coexist as the
area possibly offers the necessary unique habitat
requirements of a large number of rare and highly
endemic species from multiple taxa of flora and
dependant or even functionally closely linked spe-
cies within the area.
Using data from secondary published sources
the number of critically endangered, endangered,
vulnerable and no threatened species (IUCN cat-
egories) were calculated for every Taluka and
weights assigned as follows. As the number of spe-
cies in each Taluka could not be accurately ascer-
tained, the weights were assigned to the presence
of the following category of species. This could
be further refined if accurate number of species of
the following categories are available. As there has
been no way to assess abundance, the presence or
absence of species of the above categories has been
given weights irrespective of the number of sight-
ings/population size. If this can be quantified, the
weights can be revised to include abundance. Habi-
tats of threatened species can be prioritized based
on the following parameters.
High Low
Species Richness
Very High High Medium Low
Presence of Threatened Species
More than 5
3 to 5 spe-
1 to 3 spe-
1 species
Level of Species Threat
Endangered Vulnerable
Corridoring for seasonal changes are important
for the recent northward spread of elephants for
example. This will in all probability become a ma-
jor concern in prioritizing ESAs in some parts of
the southernmost extent of the northern sector of
the Western Ghats. This should ensure that those
wandering elephants are given an opportunity to
go back to their original habitat in Karnataka.
Broader and shorter corridors are obviously bet-
ter than narrow long corridors. Broad short cor-
ridors are the best, narrow long corridors are the
worst. Unfortunately for some highly prioritized
species only the last may be feasible as a last ditch
Corridors were drawn visually between PAs and
PA surrounds. For this study weights were then as-
signed to the presence or absence of this corridor.
Detailed studies on corridors can help in identi-
fying accurate weights based on their shape, land
cover, etc.
High Low
Corridor Potential
High Low
Corridor Shape
Broad Short
Broad Long
Corridor Type
The threat map for every Taluka has been gener-
ated using the following criteria and weights.
The disturbance map created by IIRS has been
used here. The Disturbance Index has been com-
puted by IIRS by adopting a linear combination of
the defined parameters on the basis of probabilistic
Disturbance Index (DI):{(fragmentation, po-
rosity, interspersion, proximity from disturbance
sources) settlements, roads, etc.) and juxtaposition}
This map has classified disturbance into four
classes, i.e.: high disturbance, moderate distur-
bance, low disturbance and no disturbance areas.
These categories were extracted for every Taluka
and weights given based on their percentage cover-
age within a Taluka.
High Low
Disturbance Level
High Medium Low None
As there have been no studies available on the
impact of specific mines on specific ecological re-
gions of the Western Ghats, this weight has been
given on a presence/absence basis.
High Low
Presence Absence
Industrial Areas
In the absence of data on specific industries near
forest patches in each Taluka, the presence of in-
dustrial plots belonging to the Maharashtra Indus-
trial Development Corporation (MIDC) has been
taken as an indicator though this may not neces-
sarily impact the forest. This is however an indi-
cation of urbanization in the Taluka. This weight
has been given on a presence/absence basis. The
weights could be changed and made higher if spe-
cific data is available.
Some of the MIDCs in and around the North-
ern Western Ghats include those at Satpur, Mu-
salgaon, Ambad, Dindori, Malegaon, Ratnagiri,
Zadgaon, Mahad, Taloja, Islampur, Roha, Patal-
ganga, Ranjangaon, Kharadi, Kurkumbh, Palus,
Baramati, Bhosari, Chakan, Jejuri, Hinjewadi,
Chiplun, Dapoli, Lote Parshuram, Shirgaon, Miraj
and Kadegaon
High Low
Presence Absence
Catchment Area Threats
Settlements within the catchments have a greater
impact than catchments that have RF within them
and settlements outside. A threat map was devel-
oped for catchments using the weights as given be-
High Low
Settlements Agriculture
Protected Areas Surrounds (ESA) Threats
Along with a biodiversity weight a threat weight
that considered percentage of settlements, agricul-
ture, fallow/barren land was also developed. Settle-
ments within ESAs of PAs have a great impact as
they are most susceptible to future landuse change
that will seriously impact biodiversity values of the
PAs and disrupt potential corridors. The param-
eters for the PA threat map are given below.
High Low
Settlements Agriculture
From the above methodology two raster maps
of ecologically important areas and threats were
developed respectively. The Ecologically Impor-
tant Area map was reclassified into critically im-
portant, high importance, moderate importance,
low importance and least importance areas. The
threat map was reclassified into high threat, mod-
erate threat and low threat areas. To identify the
ecosensitive areas the ecologically important area
map was overlaid with the threat map and based
on the scores the final output has been reclassified
as Fragile Areas, Highly Sensitive Areas and Sensi-
tive Areas.
For a composite map of prioritized ESAs based on Talukas, see the next page.
Protected Areas
Pre-processing and
Weight Assignment to
Individual Criterion
Ecologically Impor-
tant Areas (Taluka-
PA Surrounds
Forest Cover (IIRS)
Sacred Groves Ecologically Sensitive Areas
Species Fragile
Raster Processing Highly Sensitive
Disturbance Map (IIRS)
Pre-processing and
Weight Assignment to
Individual Criterion
Threat Levels
Threat to PA Surrounds
Threat to Catchments
Methodology used for Prioritisation of ESAs based on Talukas
Sector 1
ESA Category Features
Category Key Features
Existing ESAs
1 Protected Area
Purna WLS
Bansda NP
Protected Area Surrounds
Purna WLS Surrounds
Bansda NP Surrounds
Consist of overlapping large patches of Reserve and
Protected Forest
3 Hill Stations Nil
Proposed ESAs
A Ecosystem Based
4 Forests outside PAs Large patches of Dry and Moist Deciduous Forest
5 Water Bodies
Watershed areas of west flowing rivers, Gira, Purna,
Khapri and Ambika
No major dam catchment present
6 Others Nil
B Species Based
7 Threatened Species High
8 Important Bird Areas Nil
Threat Features
Threat Category Key Threats
Industry Illegal logging during forest insurgency in 1990s, Commercial timber extraction
Roads SH 13, 21, 26, 27
Agriculture Rab agriculture
Potential Corridor
Potential corridor present between Protected Areas
Sector 2
ESA Category Features
Category Key Features
Existing ESAs
1 Protected Area Nil
Protected Area Surrounds
Bansda NP Surrounds
Tansa WLS Surrounds
3 Hill Stations Potential ESA Hill-station at Saputara
Proposed ESAs
A Ecosystem Based
4 Forests outside PAs
Small severely fragmented patches of Dry Deciduous
and Moist Deciduous forest, better in Western aspect of
5 Water Bodies
Catchments of three dams in Dindori, two dams in
6 Others
Small tribal sacred sites, Saler Fort, Nasik has high
elevation areas
B Species Based
7 Threatened Species High in Anjaneri Hills in Nasik
8 Important Bird Areas Nil
Threat Category Key Threat
Roads Present (SH 44, 46, NH 222)
Agriculture Present
Settlement Present
Potential Corridor
Long narrow corridor requires ecorestoration and ecodevelopment
Sector 3
ESA Category Features
Category Key Features
Existing ESAs 1 Protected Area Sanjay Gandhi NP
Tansa WLS
Kalsubai Harishchandragadh WLS
Bhimashankar WLS
2 Protected Area Surrounds
Tansa WLS Surrounds
Sanjay Gandhi NP Surrounds: City of Mumbai
Kalsubai Harishchandragadh WLS
Bhimashankar WLS
3 Hill Stations Matheran, outlying range of the main ridge of the
Western Ghats
Proposed ESAs A Ecosystem Based
4 Forests outside PAs Patches of Moist Deciduous, Dry Deciduous, Semi
Evergreen, Evergreen forest present. Northernmost
intact evergreen patches, semi evergreen canopy for
giant squirrel in patches in Bhimashankar.
5 Water Bodies Tulsi, Vihar, Powai, Tansa, Chaskman Dams
6 Others Kanheri Caves, temples, Harishchandragadh Peak,
Bhimashankar escarpments, about ten forts, several
sacred groves in Junnar, Bhimashankar
B Species Based
7 Threatened Species High number of threatened species in areas of Har-
ishchandragadh, Bhimashankar, Matheran, Junnar,
Ambegaon, Karjat, Murbad, Khed and all the PAs,
important Giant Squirrel habitat
8 Important Bird Areas Bhimashankar WLS, Tansa WLS, Sanjay Gandhi NP
Threat Category Key Threat
Industry SGNP and Tansa are highly industrialised
Roads Many roads, NH 3 near SGNP, Ghadegaon-Bhimashankar, Khed-Bhimashankar
Agriculture Intense in PA surrounds, grass collection, fires, baling
Settlement SGNP consists of slums and massive urbanisation, other PAs have smaller agricultural settlements
Tourism Severe impact, Kanheri caves, temples in SGNP, Kalsubai and Bhimashankar due to pilgrimage
Potential Corridor
Very good potential east west corridor, however, practically extremely difficult These are natural bot-
tlenecks in the Western Ghats where they narrow in width West to East corridors which consist of dif-
ferent forest types, Moist Deciduous Coastal Forest of SGNP, Dry Deciduous Forest of Tansa, Moist
Deciduous, Semi Evergreen and Evergreen forest of Kalsubai and Semi Evergreen and Evergreen forest
of Bhimashankar, are of great importance for future climate change mitigation
Sector 4
ESA Category Features
Category Key Features
Existing ESAs 1 Protected Area Proposed Sanctuary at Father Santapau Valley,
2 Protected Area Surrounds
3 Hill Stations Khandala, Lonavala
Proposed ESAs A Ecosystem Based
4 Forests outside PAs Semi Evergreen, few Evergreen, highly fragmented
and isolated forest
5 Water Bodies Thokarwadi (Andhra), Uksan, Shirota, Valvan Dams
6 Others Escarpments, Karla Caves, about three forts
B Species Based
7 Threatened Species High in Khandala, Bhimashankar, INS Shivaji
8 Important Bird Areas INS Shivaji-Lonavala
Threat Features
Threat Category Key Threats
Roads Ghodegaon-Bhimashankar, Khed-Bhimashankar, Mumbai Pune expressway
Neo Townships Aamby Valley Township, Lonavala township, Land sale for farmhouses
Tourism High impact from neighbouring Mumbai Pune cities
Potential Corridor
Very high north south potential. Corridoring is possible locally between catchments and along the
crestline. However, the Aamby Valley township narrows the potential corridor. This creates a serious
impediment to corridoring possibilities and has already disrupted connectivity that has an adverse effect
on wildlife populations. The expressway and NH 4 together forms a large disruption in the potential
corridor which would require major management interventions to create underpasses and overpasses for
wildlife. The creation of two protected areas, north and south of the expressway of 100 square kilometres
each would greatly facilitate corridoring in spite of the presence of the existing gap.
Sector 5
ESA Category Features
Category Key Features
Existing ESAs 1 Protected Area Proposed Mulshi PA as compensation for Mumbai Pune
Koyna WLS
Chandoli WLS
Radhanagari WLS
2 Protected Area Surrounds
Koyna WLS
Chandoli WLS
Radhanagari WLS
3 Hill Stations Mahabaleshwar, Panhala, Panchgani
Proposed ESAs A Ecosystem Based
4 Forests outside PAs Semi Evergreen, Evergreen patches, Important tracts of
intact canopy as a narrow strip near Tamhini and Mulshi,
Good evergreen forest from Mahabaleshwar (Stunted) to
Koyna and Chandoli (Tall) in the valley to Radhanagari
(Stunted) in the crestline. Large semi evergreen forest
with high biodiversity value unprotected in Chandgad
and Sawantwadi
5 Water Bodies Several catchments, such as Pavana, Mulshi, Temghar,
Chapet, Bhatgar, Varasgaon, Dhom, Kanher, Shivaji
Sagar (Koyna), Varna (Chandoli), Doodhgangasagar
(Radhanagari) and eight others
6 Others Several sacred groves present ranging from 1 to 8 hect-
ares in size, Mulshi Taluka has 22 groves, about 23 forts,
Presence of prominent escarpments especially in Maha-
baleshwar, Kas Plateau and other important hotspecks
in the Koyna belt, waterfalls, Arthurs seat escarpment,
benchmark of old grown forest,
B Species Based
7 Threatened Species High in all the PAs
High in Mulshi, Tamhini, Mahabaleshwar (sightings of
major mammals), Bhor, Raireshwar Fort, Kas Plateau,
Patan, Possible tiger and elephant movements to the
north from the south (Chandoli)
8 Important Bird Areas Koyna WLS
Radhanagari WLS
Threat Features
Threat Category Key Threats
Industry Windmills have unknown possible impact
Mines Major impact in Sawantwadi, Dodamarg, Radhanagari, Shahuwadi, Chandgad. Several mines
are present in the Radhanagari WLS.
Roads Enhanced road traffic, new road from Pune to Coast. Roads have high traffic density and have
been widened, cutting though forest and passing several important sacred groves. Also leading to
landslides and erosion.
Neo Townships Lavasa Township, Land sales in Mulshi, Tamhini, Potential township of New Mahabaleshwar
near Kas, Panchgani, High future urbanization
Tourism Tourism in Tamhini, Mahabaleshwar- Panchgani, Kas Plateau
Other Human Elephant Conflict reported from Sawantwadi, Dodamarg and Chandgad
Potential Corridor:
Corridoring to Chandoli through natural forest is possible Bhor Mahad will require ecorestoration
Very important corridor connecting protected areas, require scientific restoration and prevention of
any form of intrusion of development, high corridoring possibility from Mahabaleshwar to Koyna
Good potential of PA surrounds through ecorestoration Bavda, Vaibhavwadi and Kagal is an impor-
tant potential corridor between Chandoli and Radhanagari WLS
Sector 6
ESA Category Features
Category Key Features
Existing ESAs 1 Protected Area Phansad WLS
2 Protected Area Surrounds
Phansad WLS
3 Hill Stations Nil
Proposed ESAs A Ecosystem Based
4 Forests outside PAs Forests at Alibag, Pen, Pali, Chiplun consist of
evergreen forest remnants which are at a higher
elevation compared to the rest of the coastline
5 Water Bodies Multiple short rivers and estuaries
6 Others Some forts, many sacred groves along the entire
length, important sacred grove belt, larger than in
the Western Ghats
B Species Based
7 Threatened Species Alibag, Roha, Chiplun High
8 Important Bird Areas Nil
Threat Features
Threat Category Key Threats
Industry Large industrial belt stretching from Roha, Mahad and south, proposed coal based power plants
Mines Mining licenses granted in Sindhudurg
Roads Wildlife underpasses and overpasses are required for the coastal highway and railway passing
through the evergreen forest patches
Agriculture Intensive prawn farming along the coast
Settlement Present everywhere
Tourism Five star tourism in Alibag
Potential Corridor
No potential corridor
Sector 7
ESA Category Features
Category Key Features
1 Protected Area Mhadei WLS
Bhagwan Mahavir WLS
Mollem WLS
Cotigaon WLS
2 Protected Area Surrounds
Mhadei WLS
Bhagwan Mahavir WLS
Mollem WLS
Cotigaon WLS
3 Hill Stations Nil
A Ecosystem Based
4 Forests outside PAs Continuous evergreen forest patches throughout, honey-
combed by mines even in the protected areas
5 Water Bodies One major catchment in Sanguem
6 Others Several sacred groves,
B Species Based
7 Threatened Species High in all PAs
8 Important Bird Areas Bhagwan Mahavir WLS
Cotigaon WLS
Mhadei WLS
Carambolim Lake
Threat Features
Threat Category Key Threats
Industry Mining related industries
Mines Extremely high mining threats within the sanctuaries and their surrounds
Roads State highways exist throughout the protected areas, important to build underpasses and over-
Tourism High pressure in coastal areas affect the forest area
Potential Corridor
The protected areas and surrounds form a natu-
ral corridor to the southern Western Ghats. This
entire belt from Valpoy through Chauri consists of
continuous evergreen patches and forms an excel-
lent corridor to the southern Western Ghats. How-
ever, mining within the sanctuaries and surrounds
is a major threat.
The Need for Corridors
Corridors are particularly important in the north-
ern Western Ghats as they allow movement of ani-
mals from one forested patch to another. Seasonal
movements enlarge the animals range and habitat
preferences, which help to increase their genetic di-
versity and health. This indicates that corridors are
extremely important for the survival of a healthy
population of species (Bharucha 2000).
In the Western Ghats corridors between PAs is of
great importance as the N-S orientation of the hill
range would permit floral and faunal elements to
migrate in response to climate change. Elsewhere
where corridors lie in other directions they may
be less amenable to future shifts of species. This
great potential for species to migrate northwards
in response to a rise in temperature will be possible
in the Western Ghats forests only if the corridor
forests are kept reasonably intact between the PAs.
There is thus an opportunity for judiciously man-
aging corridors to adapt to the ill effects of climate
change. The corridors require not only an adequate
width, but should include quality habitat condi-
tions that would permit several different species to
migrate through them. This would mean reducing
pressures from neighbouring landscape elements.
The corridors will enhance the carrying capacity
of the PA network for maintaining heterozygos-
ity within species. The integrity of natural and
even semi natural ecosystems can be maintained
through ecorestoration only if sufficiently large
and optimal habitats are protected for its species.
Thus corridoring is an essential component for
managing genetic, species and ecosystem diversity
of the northern Western Ghats.
Corridors are equally important for local people
as once they are disrupted both predators and her-
bivores are forced into their agricultural lands and
their settlements. This leads to serious people
wildlife conflicts. Currently several leopards have
been moving out of their forest patches around
Bhimashankar into the sugarcane fields at Junnar.
A stray tiger was known to move around villages
near Tamhini Ghats in Mulshi Taluka in 2004. A
Gaur was found to infiltrate into the Bharati Vidy-
apeeths campus in Dhankawadi in Pune in 2000.
Elephants have strayed repeatedly into southern
Maharashtra from Karnataka in recent years. All
these animals appear to have been attempting to
unsuccessfully look for more suitable habitats. This
could indicate a loss of optimal habitat conditions,
or an overabundance in the existing habitat, or
Straying into a distant location also indicates
the presence of some level of corridoring which
is sufficient to permit these stray animals to move
into an alternate area. However the new location
may not be an appropriate and safer habitat, as the
above incidents have shown.
The long term value of corridors is highly de-
pendent on the health of the adjacent landscape
and presence of large patches of natural vegetation.
This applies to our current critical situation in the
Western Ghats. Even with the existence of forest
corridors, several local species will be lost unless
the larger islands of relatively intact vegetation are
protected. Thus ESAs that will be managed with a
view to protect / enhance natural biodiversity will
be a key to a successful integrated landscape plan
through a chain of relatively large patches linked
by viable corridors. The meta populations of large
species such as tiger, gaur, and sambar are more
likely to survive in the long-term if this strategy is
developed at the landscape level, as the forest is
already severely fragmented. In these major overt
indicator species, which prefer to use forest interi-
ors and cannot survive at forest edges, the reduced
size of patches and increased isolation has already
led to local extinctions. This eventually annihilates
these species in the region. It is evident that the
smaller the forest fragments the lower the popu-
lation of forest interior species. In contrast edge
species such as the more adaptable ones would in-
crease in abundance due to the multiplication of
the fragments with a concomitant increase in the
extent of edges even though fragments become
Landuse Within Existing Corridors
Currently the existing corridors between PAs in-
clude patches of Reserve Forest, Protected Forest
and Malki forest areas. They include forests of
various levels of intactness from over 80% canopy,
to those between 40-80%, and degraded areas of
shrubland. The latter are primarily village grazing
lands, which have been frequently dubbed waste-
land. These blank areas are frequently commu-
nity owned pastures used by local agro-pastoral
people. Fires are lit on these hill slopes in February
and March to get a quick flush of palatable grass
for the large number of free ranging village cattle.
Another landscape element that is present in
these corridors are the patches of shifting agricul-
ture on the hill slopes where hill rice, nagli, varai
etc. are grown by lopping the forest, to use as a
wood ash fertilizer. Fire is a component of the lo-
cal management regime.
The potential areas that are selected to develop
corridors must include a strategy for ESAs that
must consider the existing land use and define lo-
cale specific management practices for them. This
depends on the varied needs of animal species that
are expected to use these corridors. As the land
tenure differs from site to site there will have to be
a set of specific norms and rules for utilization of
these potential corridors. A complete ban on their
use by local people would create serious conflict
issues. What must be done is preventing new forms
of development of these potential corridors.
Types of Corridors
Corridors in the Western Ghats are of two types:
Natural Relict Corridors for Biologically Impor-
tant Patches
The most important ESAs are already seques-
trated in the PAs. However the corridors are small
and inadequately buffered from surrounding lan-
duse pressures. Ecorestoration in buffer areas and
dam catchments is a key to maintaining the integ-
rity of biodiversity of the Western Ghats through a
system of existing relict forest corridors.
Potential and Restored Corridors
These are blank or degraded patches which are
not connected by natural vegetation. These degrad-
ed areas lie between significantly large patches of
forest or those that are created by plantation for-
estry for a variety of purposes. Such areas would
require extensive ecorestorative efforts in the West-
ern Ghats.
It is the first type that is of great value and must
be protected as bridges for species to move between
PAs. Plantations though usable by certain species
may not be used by the more ecologically discern-
ing species (National Resources Conservation Ser-
There are several specialized ecosystems within
the Western Ghats that must be included in a spe-
cial corridor ESA category. Forest patches that are
significantly different in composition and structure
and include unique features must be adequately
connected. There are also the plateau tops with
a lateritic crust on which floral elements of great
biological diversity grow only during the monsoon.
The precipitous Western slopes are of interest as
they have waterfalls and cascades which are the
specialized niche of a variety of plants, amphib-
ians, crustacean and molluscs. Nalla courses with
both perennial and monsoonal flows are rich in
aquatic and semi aquatic floral elements that are
fairly specific and form aggregations of species rich
micro habitats. All these must be identified and in-
cluded in a special category of protected corridor
that connects such patches in the Western Ghats.
Thus a variety of natural landscape elements must
be included in the formation of ESA corridors be-
tween PAs.
Establishing Corridors in the Northern
Western Ghats
Existing corridors in the Western Ghats can-
not be simply viewed on a satellite image. This is
only the first step. This must be followed by ground
truthing to appreciate if the width is adequate, the
connectivity between patches is relatively intact,
and the structure of the protected vegetation is in a
stage of recovery towards naturalness. Corridors
seen on the satellite image may appear intact but
on the ground consist of tiny isolated fragments
as seen in areas overgrazed by cattle. Such areas
have multiple small patches of grassy open gaps
surrounded initially by a matrix of forest. In more
severely grazed areas the openings form the matrix
and the forests appear as islands with no interior
habitat and largely consist of edge habitats. The fi-
nal stage of such degradation is formation of shru-
Little is known about the effects of weed infesta-
tion in the Northern Western Ghats. For example
Lantana spreading along forest edges and even
infiltrating forest interiors may affect the popula-
tion of some species but favour others. For exam-
ple leopards and even tigers appear to appreciate
thickets of Lantana for their shade and seclusion
in degraded areas. Birds in the Western Ghats such
as Red Vented Bulbul and Red Whiskered Bulbuls
feed on Lantana berries. Butterflies feed on Lanta-
na flower nectar. What remains enigmatic is what
happens with species such as the Black Bulbul and
Yellow Browed Bulbul which are associated with
intact forests. A list of butterflies if any, which have
been able to adapt to Lantana for laying eggs on
which their caterpillars can feed successfully, needs
to be acquired through detailed studies. Thus ef-
fects of infestation by exotic plants may have a
much greater impact on forest biodiversity in the
Western Ghats than is generally believed. A sto-
chastic or cyclic event such as flowering of bam-
boo or Strobilanthus could lead to a rapid spread
of an invasive species. Such an event could virtu-
ally destroy habitat quality of an ESA. The species
composition and density of a faunal community is
thus dependant on weed infestation which is a phe-
nomenon which remains essentially unexplored in
the Ghats. Weed infestation is linked closely to cor-
ridor effectiveness in the Ghats.
In the Western Ghats the streams are impor-
tant natural riparian corridors. For example nal-
las are frequented by species such as the Malabar
Whistling thrush. Surrounding deforestation al-
ters stream flow converting perennial or long flow
duration streams, into short flow duration, or dry
stream beds immediately after the rains. In such
situations the corridor effect of riparian vegetation
is severally compromised.
Old growth deorais can act as stepping stones
for birds such as the Great Pied hornbill.
The efficiency of the habitat to support a com-
plete compliment of plant and animal species
is thus a cumulative effect of a vast combination
of factors operating at the landscape level in the
Ghats ecosystem.
According to a study conducted by Das et al
several of the prioritized unprotected areas in the
Western Ghats are under Reserve Forests and can
thus be incorporated into a wider network of con-
servation areas. Such areas would undoubtedly
be capable of linking at least some of the better
patches of forests.
After restoring a corridor through a series of ini-
tiatives it is important to assess whether the newly
created corridor is capable of performing the de-
sired ecological functions. It is also important to
study the structure and existing ecological status
of the recipient habitat patches. Inferior ecological
status of recipient habitat patches may have an ad-
verse effect on the target species as well as on the
corridor. Corridors may act as sinks if patches that
are linked are not appropriately conserved. While
evaluating corridor functions it is important that
the terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems, habitats,
species, and natural features of the landscape are
taken into account.
Potential Corridors within the Northern
Western Ghats
Purna Wildlife Sanctuary to Vansda National
PA: Vansda National Park Too small but of
good biological value with mixed and Nature Dry
Deciduous and Moist Deciduous Teak with herds
of cheetal in a single pocket, leopard, Felix chaus,
Jackal, accessioned sightings of Rusty spotted cat.
PA: Purna Wildlife Sanctuary Disturbed by
agriculture in PF Natural teak plantations and
some mixed forests. Good habitat for birdlife.
PA: ESAS surrounding the PAs overlap and in-
clude a viable corridor of dry deciduous forest.
Forest: Has good quality old Teak trees in Dry
Deciduous forests across most of the Reserve For-
est patches but fragmented by Protected Forest
with extensive agriculture.
Forest: Fragmented by traditional rab agricul-
ture which has escalated during the last 20 years
Forest: Connectivity possible through riverine
tracts of important rivers.
Fauna : Few endangered endemic mammals
Rusty Spotted Cat, Leopard
Fauna: Important Bird Area
Forest corridoring: Forest patches large to mod-
erate size but convoluted edges and some corridor-
ing possible.
Corridor: Importance of riverine tracts as corri-
dors which will require ecorestoration.
Corridor : Natural forest corridoring present be-
tween some patches of Reserve Forest
Corridor: Corridoring possible through ecores-
toration especially for forest patches, but difficult
in Protected Forest areas.
Impact : Traditional agriculture by rab, some
evidence of hunting for food
Impact: By roads especially along single main
tract from Nasik via Saputara to Balsar and Billi-
Vansda National Park to Sanjay Gandhi National
Long narrow corridor through Surgana, Peint,
Nashik, Igatpuri
Forest: Fragmented
Corridor: Will require ecorestoration
Impact: Roads, agriculture, settlements
Sanjay Gandhi National Park through Tansa
Wildlife Sanctuary and Kalsubai Harishchan-
dragadh Wildlife Sanctuary to Bhimashankar
Wildlife Sanctuary
PA : Potential PA of Father Santapeau Sanctu-
ary not notified as suggested by Rodger and Pan-
war (1988)
Forest : Excellent but fragmented forest patches
of moderate size around Bhimashankar
Forest : Moderate size of patches, isolation of
patches of natural forest in and around Bhimashan-
Water bodies (Catchment): Valwan and Shi-
rowata are high priority catchments without any
villages and low pressures from outside the catch-
ment. All other catchments with villages and ag-
ricultural land (Rab) with relatively high pressure
Fauna : Important Bird Area recorded at INS
Shivaji by BNHS
Fauna: Important ex situ breeding facility for
Mahseer fish which have been introduced into
Andhra, Valwan, Shirowata and Mulshi lakes.
Corridor: Priority patch for corridor to Bhi-
Corridor: Important existing corridor of natu-
ral forest (between Bhimashankar and Koyna), but
parts of it broken by Expressway between Mumbai
Pune in addition to the National Highway and
railway tracks.
Corridor : Important lateral westward offshoot
corridors to Tansa, Borivali (Sanjay Gandhi Na-
tional Park) and Bhimashankar, Alcota Matheran
Corridor : Important for corridoring southward
to Koyna
Impact Mumbai Pune Expressway with high
traffic density, air pollution, landslides, forest deg-
radation, and road kills of wildlife. (Requires WL
Impact Urbanization of Lonavala Khandala
Impact New township and access road to Sa-
hara which is a large unbridgeable gap.
Impact - PA to have been developed as a com-
pensation for mitigating impact of Mumbai Pune
Expressway which has NOT been implemented.
Impact: Religious tourism, solid waste overbur-
den, water pollution and over utilization of forest
resources in Bhimashankar Wildlife Sanctuary.
Hills Stations HS: Priority patch for corridor to
Matheran notified ESA for hill station.
Bhimashankar Wildlife Sanctuary to Koyna
Wildlife Sanctuary
PA: Potential PA as suggested but not notified in
Mahabaleshwar. (Rodger and Panwar (1988))
PA: Koyna WLS, backwaters of great biodiver-
sity conservation value
PA: Excellent tall semi evergreen forest Koyna
backwaters and West bank of lake
Forest : Moderate size patches of intact RF
Forest : Northern most well preserved RF patch-
es of evergreen and semi evergreen vegetation
around Mahabaleshwar seen at a high elevation in
a high rainfall belt
Forest : Good patches of natural forest Tam-
hini Dongarwadi - Adarwadi
Forest : Fragmentation moderate
Forest : Isolation minimal
Forest : Excellent stunted semi-evergreen Mem-
ecylon forests at ridge
Forest Ecosystem: Panchgani and Kas plateaus
of great importance for endemic and endangered
monsoonal flora. Several similar laterite plateaus
of value have been identified
Fauna : Giant squirrel present in patches, also
tiger, leopard, sambar, gaur
Fauna : IBA recognized internationally BNHS
Corridor: Relatively intact natural forest corri-
dor in patches between Bhimashankar WLS and
Koyna Wildlife Sanctuary to be protected through
an important ESA through a corridor system de-
veloped by ecorestoration of catchment areas.
Corridor: Important off shoot corridor to Kar-
nala WLS.
Impact : Lonavala complex heavily urbanized
Impact : Major break in corridor due to Mumbai
Pune Expressway and highway
Impact : Widened Road between Pune and Ma-
Impact : Gaps at Sahara and Lavasa townships
Impact: Unauthorized Construction in Maha-
baleshwar Panchgani and intervening tracts.
Impact : Moderate amount of rab cultivation
Sacred groves: Nearly 40 odd sacred groves of
Mulshi and Mawal. Some well preserved and an-
cient patches, mostly from 0-4 ha in size.
Koyna Wildlife Sanctuary to Chandoli Wildlife
Forest: Intact evergreen and semi evergreen
Forest: Existing corridor for wildlife
Corridor: Well developed natural, short, wide
corridor exists
Chandoli Wildlife Sanctuary to Radhanagari
Wildlife Sanctuary
PA: Chandoli is one of the most important PA
in Maharashtra for WG typical evergreen and semi
evergreen formations.
Fauna: Presence of largest population density of
Gaur, possibly tiger, leopard, and sambar popula-
Fauna : To be developed into only Tiger Reserve
in northern Western Ghats
Fauna : Recognized IBA
Impact: Large feral buffalo population.
Impact: Mining operations within 10 Km ESA
surround with no buffer area.
PA: Radhanagari is an important PA of Western
Ghats Large size, good patches of intact forest
and large plateau.
Forest: Intact continuous evergreen and semi ev-
ergreen forest.
Forest: Continuous Forest canopy in ESA sur-
Forest: Very low fragmentation, no isolation of
Fauna: Best specimens of Gaur in northern
Western Ghats with high population density. Also
has Sambar, Barking deer, Wild boar, excellent
population of forest birds, thrushes, babblers, war-
blers, and flycatchers.
Fauna : Important Bird Area recognized by
Corridor : Viable natural forest corridors both to
the North towards Chandoli and South wants to
Protected Areas of Goa
Impact : Impacts initial urbanization
Impact: Impact of mining is a severe on-going
Radhanagari Wildlife Sanctuary to all Goa Sanc-
PA: The Protected Areas include 3 or 4 of the
contiguous areas with overlapping ESA surrounds
thus requiring no special corridor.
Forest: Continuous tall evergreen forest forma-
Forest: High level of fragmentation in certain
sectors due to mining
Fauna: Gaur, Sambar, Leopard, Lesser cats.
Corridor: Good possibilities for corridoring,
short and wide existing corridor.
Impact: Mining is a major impact on the con-
servation potential of the region and damages the
There are some important parameters for priori-
tisation. An area that is intimately connected with
an adjacent ESA of the same category is better as
the floral and faunal community would be similar,
thus permitting and promoting movement and ge-
netic heterozygosity within each of its component
species. If represented by a gap or some other cat-
egory of ESA the specialist species are likely to be
different. Thus even though apparently linked to
an adjacent ESA the different category of the ESA
may constitute a gap for a particular habitat spe-
cific species.
In each category the relative importance of each
ESA must carefully be rated. The Pranob Sen Com-
mittee in 2000 (Sen 2000) stated that the technical
expertise available to the Government at present for
evaluating ecological sensitivity or fragility and de-
marcating the area concerned is extremely limited
.. Each (agency) has a very specific focus and
none at present are focused on mapping of ESAs.
During the last decade the use of geoinformatics
has grown considerably. Large areas have been
worked on. For example in Maharashtra a large
exercise has been done to produce maps and data
to redefine the boundaries and reduce the size of
the GIB grassland Sanctuary in Maharashtra from
8000 Sq. Km. of grassland in Reserve Forest to
1200 Sq. km. Similar studies to look at corridoring
and other wildlife parameters using GIS have been
done at Bharati Vidyapeeth Institute of Environ-
ment Education and Research. Several other stud-
ies in different regions have been conducted even
in the Western Ghats (Bharucha 2000). Thus while
the capacity has grown in the field of ecological
mapping the parameter and assessment criteria to
establish a rating scale has remained elusive. This
is now increasingly essential.
In the Western Ghats a particular area can be con-
sidered an ESA on one or more than one ground.
Thus it may include various categories each being
given a different rating based on both quantitative
objective measurable parameters and qualitative
value judgments. This gives a more precise rating
based on parameters such as biological values and
extent of threat. This provides a balanced scoring
tool that may give rise to a better outcome. For ex-
ample National Parks would have a greater rating
than Sanctuaries. Unique areas and micro eco-
systems or niches would be given higher scores.
Large continuous forests belts have greater scores
than small patches within an area. Areas with en-
dangered or endemic species as well as common
species at an optimal level of the carrying capacity
of an area have higher ratings for species. Small
relict natural formations such as plateau tops must
be given a high rating for their number of endemic
In terms of species and rating their abundance
or rarity as well as importance has been attempted
by several studies. Species with a low tolerance to
habitat destruction have limited ecological am-
plitude. The level of threat (risk) of extinction in-
creases from rare species to vulnerable in the mid-
term, to endangered where extinction may result in
the wild in a short period of time. This is a strong
criterion for placing an ESA within an ecologically
important category at the top of the rating scale.
An endangered species in all likelihood could lose
50% of its individuals within the next three genera-
tion of the species (IUCN Category of Endangered
The tool for evaluating the importance of a
patch of forest as a valuable landscape element
within a wider landscape that includes natural as
well as man-modified patterns forming a complex
mosaic must be rated depending on the local situ-
ation. Here no quantified values are possible and
a qualitative but carefully judged rating based on
ecological functions, naturalness, uniqueness and
other qualitative judgments are at times even more
accurate than quantified notional values based on
numerical values alone.
Evergreen forests in the Northern Western Ghats
are as important as the sholas. They have a low
resilience and once their canopy is disrupted are
rapidly recolonized by a range of species which are
not from the local evergreen plant community.
On the slopes both, the western escarpment
and parts of the eastern aspect the gradient and to-
pography are important factors to suggest relative
importance within this category which is often seen
in catchment areas of dams. The steeper the slope
the greater its ecological sensitivity as erosion land-
slides and siltation levels creates serious impacts on
the longevity of the dams. Slopes that are steeper
than 20 are considered moderately steep and form
a dividing line for the level of ecological sensitive-
ness (Sen 2000).
Several experts with whom this project has been
discussed feel that this is the last time that an effort
can be made to preserve the biological values of
the Western Ghats. The planning exercise would
have to consider various views of a wide range of
stakeholders and bring about a consensus before
any steps are taken to implement new ESAs.
The major concerns include a review of the
existing data on ecosystem and species diversity.
There should be in place plans to collect data on
gaps in knowledge and to increase appreciation
of the various impacts on the environment. An
understanding of the management needs of each
ESA category. Geoinformatics and ground surveys
for planning corridors should be used. Finally the
complex exercise of prioritization in terms of fu-
ture landuse should be attempted.
n several situations the implementation of
conservation has not occurred in India due
to inadequate planning, lack of political will,
or poor monitoring and evaluation. Knight et al
(2006) stress the need to use well-tested tools such
as area selection algorithms and principles that in-
clude representation and complementarity which
have to be used during implementation of a locale
specific conservation plan (Knight, Cowling, and
Campbell 2006). In the Western Ghats the ESA
must be based on these concerns. The current
MEE Management Effective Evaluation being
implemented by MOEF through the WII for PAs
and Tiger Reserves shows that the gaps in imple-
mentation are related to issues such as inadequate-
ly trained manpower, delays in funding etc. These
issues will have to be considered in managing the
functions of the ESAs. We may know how to plan
but do not know how to implement and achieve the
objectives of the ESAs. Once initiated the Western
Ghats Authority must be endowed with autonomy
which enables its functionaries and its selected ex-
pert professional institutions to implement conser-
vation action. This will require a broad consensus
on which different line agencies in Government at
Centre and State level should be empowered to act
and to select stake holders who can effectively play
a significant role through PPP to implement the
objectives of ESAs. People support is said to be the
most important strategy to create the approximate
milieu for conservation.
Once initiated a regular review of activities
through conservation assessment techniques
would have to be put into place. Planning the in-
dividual activities that can lead to successful man-
agement of ESAs goes beyond prioritization based
on appropriate site selection, capacity building, in
situ conservation, corridoring etc. It will require
a number of individuals who are trained and em-
powered to put the ESAs management in an ac-
tion oriented mode. It implies not only an under-
standing of biological needs of the ESAs but the
social and economic background in which they are
situated. (Knight, Cowling, and Campbell 2006)
propose clear components for doing conservation
The ESAs prioritized in the different categories
will require an implementation strategy, capacity
building of executives and front line staff and col-
laborative and participative management. A sys-
tematic conservation assessment tool will have to
be put into place which is followed by operational
models and evaluation of the success of manage-
Don FaberLangendoen (2007) demonstrates
how Ecological Integrity Assessments assists in
ecological classification through remote sensing,
rapid assessment, intensive assessment and metrics
documentation. The tool uses key ecological attri-
butes and indicators for ranking biotic attributes,
abiotic conditions, and area and landscape contest.
An EIA score card is used to rank a particular area
providing an ecological integrity rank.
There is a need to study the tree, shrub, climber
and ground flora in each of the ESAs to be able
to monitor the effectiveness of conservation before
and periodically after implementation in the ESA
by the Western Ghats Authority. This can be done
by a periodic evaluation of woody and non- woody
herbivorous vegetation.
There cannot be a single strategy to adequately
protect the different ESA categories. As PAs, ESA
of 10 kms around PAs, RF areas, and the three
ESA Hill stations already have their own protec-
tion strategies these can continue to be governed by
their existing acts, norms, rules and Court Orders.
It is other areas outside these relatively protected
categories that require sustainable governance on a
category-wise set of conditions that require urgent
attention and a time bound Rapid Action Plan.
This includes a complete cessation by Regional
and Town Planners for permitting or creating new
townships, new hill stations, further construction
in other existing hill stations, such as Panhala or
urbanizing of areas such as the plateau tops, such
as Kas.
A few guidelines on what can, may or not be
done in each of these landuse elements need to be
developed through an Action Plan.
The ESAs are currently multiple use areas with
primarily an agro pastoral traditional based land
use management. This is less damaging than more
intensive farming, urbanization, road building,
dam construction of the adjacent valleys etc. There
is no need to curtail the activities of traditional
farming except to reduce the frequency of hill slope
cultivation, free uncontrolled grazing, prevent an-
nual lighting of fires, and continual extraction of
fuel wood and NTFP collection for sale.
This means that an alternate income generation
model has to be developed for these local people
especially so that there is no temptation for selling
their lands to other types of land users such as farm
houses, roadside, small time or large hoteliers, busi-
ness and small scale industries that can together
constitute a major cumulative threat.
Any tourism activity must be based on the prin-
ciples of real ecotourism which means that the
strategy and activities must minimize its impacts
on ecology and that the income generated must
go to local people as a means towards alternate
income generation and low impact form of home
stay tourism rather than five star tourist complexes
where the income generated goes to big business.
The financial returns must go to local people as an
alternate income generation strategy that reduces
their impacts on the land and its resources. Low
impact forms of home stays rather than five-star
tourism (where the income generated actually acts
as a draw for builders, hoteliers, land grabbers etc.
has to become a part of an ecodevelopment initia-
While demands for more water will trigger more
dams it is more appropriate to enhance the survival
of existing impoundments by eliminating soil ero-
sion, ecosensitive afforestation by using local tree
species, especially focusing on those that have key
stone properties, are rare or endemic to the West-
ern Ghats.
Traditionally managed deorais should be
managed through as is where is strategies with
clear moratoriums on building temples within
them, or expanding existing tribal shrines to ac-
commodate gods other than the existing forest
deity. An education awareness drive in the local
language and by local experts such as ecologists,
anthropologists, social scientists, naturalists and
NGOs should be used to advise local pujaris on the
need to use the groves only for local people rather
than opening them up to external religious tourism
from adjacent towns except perhaps once a year.
This will prevent problems such as trampling of
seedlings, water pollution of stream courses, exces-
sive garbage especially of plastic bags and bottles
etc. within the site.
While road transport needs will continue to grow
the demands to widen roads must be strategically
denied by more stringent monitoring of EIAs. Bet-
ter traffic control and policing, preventing double
laneing due to overtaking, installing camera traps,
traffic education are alternatives to unnecessary
road widening plans. New alignments except to ac-
cess villages that have remained unconnected will
have to be permanently stalled.
All mining activities which destabilize soil and
degrade forest cover will have to be prevented in
areas designated as ESAs.
Outside ESAs these activities must follow very
stringently the ecorestoration norms with an over-
riding plan to use only local tree species, recreate
the shrub layer and climbers and encourage the
reformation of locally relevant ground flora espe-
cially of important species such as endemic and
endangered ground flora.
A major concern is the conservation of outlying
hill ranges to the east of the main ridge and the out-
crops and low plateaus or isolated hills adjacent to
the Western Ghats in the Deccan to the east and on
the coastal plain in the West. Such hills and elevat-
ed areas can have immense bioresources with en-
demic and endangered ground flora and their fau-
nal inhabitants such as amphibian, reptiles, birds
and mammals. Some of these may be more vital
and / or threatened than similar populations in the
Ghats themselves. This would have to be dealt with
on a case to case basis as they would be outside the
Western Ghats.
The management for ESAs of the Western Ghats
cannot consist of a single strategy as their conser-
vation values, impacts and needs vary in different
ESA categories and locations along the range.
Thus there is a need to group these varied eco-
logically sensitive sites into specific categories and
develop a strategy using specific management cri-
teria for each ESAs type. The categories suggested
are based on their specific objectives which are re-
lated to a combination of factors that include eco-
nomic development, local societal requirements,
and most importantly for maintaining their ecolog-
ical integrity. The last includes preserving genetic
species and ecosystem diversity.
Some of these ecologically sensitive sites may
already have institutionalized protective strategies
such as NPs or WL Sanctuaries; Reserved For-
ests, or preserved as traditionally protected sacred
groves. Others may not have any protection at all
and thus require a new set of legal provisions as
ESAs, with new relevant rules and institutional ar-
rangements for their protection. In some instances
the sites may be so small that only locally relevant
strategies can be used to protect them as ESAs.
All these different sites would fall under one or
more categories within the umbrella of a network
of ESAs in the Western Ghats.
The categories constituted as ESAs from a man-
agement perspective are linked closely to land ten-
ure and impacts from development. While some of
the sites have great conservation significance they
may also suffer from high levels of biotic pressures.
Their conservation values may be depleted unless
protective measures are rapidly instituted. Others
may have lower conservation value but have low
biotic pressures and may thus remain stable. How-
ever their status could be enhanced by ecorestor-
ative strategies. A high biodiversity value and a low
biotic pressure would constitute the most impor-
tant ESAs. In such situation long term preserva-
tion through an ESA would lead to the most posi-
tive results. Preventing unsustainable development
from extending into such ESAs is the key strategy
to be instituted in these sites.
Low conservation status areas with existing high
impacts may be worthless and the costs of revers-
ing degradation trends may be too high to be of
any significant value.
The framework for the strategy to be used at a
site can be developed by using a template as giv-
en below. This can be filled for each Taluka in the
Western Ghats.
Type (ESA
level Strategy
Once a conservation strategy based on locale
specific conditions is evolved for a Taluka, it is es-
sential to identify the implementing agency For-
est Department, Revenue Department, Private
agencies, NGOs, local people. A set of Rules and
Regulations to manage each category must be for-
mulated. These can be based on a modification of
Rules used in the Wildlife Protection Act (1972);
Forest Conservation Act (1980); Water Act (1974);
Environment Protection Act (1986) etc. Relevant
Rules that can be effectively modified for ESAs
from these Acts are given in the section on Judicial
Planning and designing an appropriate conser-
vation development program for the future of the
Western Ghats is now an urgent need. This stems
from the enormous pressures on landuse based on
the need for a rapid economic growth without any
thought for its long-term sustainability.
The landscape in the Ghats currently consists of
a patchwork of forests, narrowed degraded shrub
land corridors, dam catchments etc. in a matrix of
agriculture and degraded areas that constitute gaps
between existing PAs. The PAs are nodes in the
Western Ghats landscape that have significant pop-
ulations of wild species of flora and fauna (Noss
and Harris 1986).
The status and landuse pattern of these nodes
and the existence of functional corridoring is a key
conservation concern. Cores, buffers and bridges
between forested patches must constitute a homog-
enous management entity. In the Ghats this will
require a conceptual framework, a review of the
existing situation and a highly locality and species
specific strategy. The complexity in management
stems primarily from the multiple agencies in-
volved in land management. Integrating their var-
ied functions into a unified perception related to
the concerns of ESAs in the Ghats is a major issue
for the proposed Western Ghats Authority.
The principles of management for ESAs should
include the following:
1. Maintaining large continuous patch sizes
rather than small multiple fragments
2. Creating well connected corridor between
fragments is better than improving isolated
3. Closely contiguous patches are better than
isolated patches
4. Widest possible natural corridors are better
than restored ones
5. Sensitive management of Protected Area
surrounds for local use with a reduction in
conflict is the key to conservation
There are two processes that will have to be used
in implementing ESAs. They are ecorestoration
and ecodevelopment. Both have linkages to sus-
tainable development. However, they are different
approaches with certain parallel and even diver-
gent objectives. These will require developing new
management strategies with new structures and lo-
cal capacity development.
This review has demonstrated the complexity of
creating a management strategy for the future well-
being of the ecology the biological diversity and
the economic development of local people of the
Western Ghats. To plan a sustainable development
package that is suitable for an ecologically sensitive
region of global and national importance for pres-
ervation of its biological assets will require a great
deal of locale specific planning taking into account
the local peoples needs.
While the whole region is ecologically sensitive
it is related to the different landscape elements that
constitute a mosaic of different categories. Thus the
region as a whole is not equally suitable for differ-
ent forms of development. Within each landscape
element the level of sensitiveness differs. This rang-
es from extremely fragile, highly sensitive, less sen-
sitive. All activities would have some impact on the
biodiversity at either genetic, species or ecosystem
levels. However as the level of sensitivity differs
significantly with the different categories it would
be essential to define the types of activity that may
be permitted in certain areas within strong mitiga-
tion and monitoring measures laid down for each
category. This would range from hands off areas to
those that would be least threatening to the existing
status of biological diversity.
In fact the objective of the Management Plan for
the region should be able to enhance the security
of regional biodiversity by two types of strategies.
The first is to prevent further degradation. The sec-
ond is to enhance naturalness.
As within each landuse category the level of sen-
sitivity differs the pattern of sustainable develop-
ment differs. This is extremely relevant where the
area is irreplaceable due to the presence of a spe-
cies or a group of species that are pocketed into a
tiny fragment.
Several concerns related to ecological sensitiv-
ity of the Western Ghats are issues linked to a
sustainable development strategy for the region.
Traditional land management systems which were
thought to be damaging now appear insignificant
when compared to recent impacts due to landuse
Ecodevelopment is primarily concerned with
an ecologically sensitive human development pro-
gram aimed at improving the quality of life of local
people of the Western Ghats. Its primary pillars in-
clude sustainable economic growth, health, nutri-
tion, housing, energy needs without compromising
in any way the health of the ecosystem and its bio-
logical diversity. The needs of the program would
obviously centre around agro-pastoral and fishing
Ecodevelopment as defined by the UN is a form
of development at regional and local levels consis-
tent with the potentials of the area involved, with
attention given to the adequate and rational use of
natural resources, technological styles and organi-
sational forms that respect natural ecosystems and
local social and cultural patterns (United Nations,
New York, 1997).
Agroforestry in the Western Ghats of peninsu-
lar India and the satoyama landscapes of Japan:
a comparison of two sustainable land use sys-
tems- Agroforestry in the Western Ghats (WG)
of peninsular India and Satoyama in rural Japan
are traditional land-use systems with similar evo-
lutionary trajectories. Some of their relevance was
lost by the middle of the twentieth century, when
modern agricultural technologies and urbanisation
engineered shifts in emphasis towards maximising
crop production. There has been, however, a re-
surgence of interest in traditional land-use systems
recently, in view of their ability to provide ecosys-
tem services. Both agroforestry and satoyama are
thought to be harbingers of biological diversity
and have the potential to serve as carbon forests.
Carbon (C) stock estimates of the sampled home
gardens in WG ranged from 16 to 36 Mg/ha. Sa-
toyama woodlands owing to variations in tree
stocking and management conditions indicated
widely varying C stocks (2279 Mg/ha). Agrofor-
estry and satoyama also differ in nature, complex-
ity, and objectives. While agroforestry involves key
productive and protective functions, and adopts
intensive management, the satoyama woodlands
are extensively managed; understory production
is seldom a consideration. Differences in canopy
architecture (multi-tiered structure of agroforestry
vs. the more or less unitary canopy of satoyama)
Terms used for Appreciating Ecosensitivity
Key Biodiversity Areas (KBAs): KBAs are an overlapping subset of the existing and potential PAs (Lang-
hammer et al. 2007).
Irreplaceability and Vulnerability are the most important aspects of conservation planning. Irreplaceability
is related to uniqueness. Vulnerability deals with irreplaceability if threats continue unabated. High irreplace-
ability and high vulnerability requires heightened levels of urgent actions.
and land ownership pattern (privately owned/
managed agroforestry holdings vs. community or
local government or privately owned and mostly
abandoned satoyamas) pose other challenges in
the transfer and application of knowledge gained
in one system to the other. Nonetheless, lessons
learnt from satoyama conservation may be suitable
for common pool resource management elsewhere
in Asia, and aspects relating to understory produc-
tion in agroforestry may be relevant for satoyama
under certain scenarios.
In the Western Ghats the old settlements were
most frequently a string of small hamlets at the foot
of the mountain range. The local agro pastoralists
of the northern Western Ghats were Marathas,
and tribal communities such as the Bhils and the
Koknas. In the Dangs they are frequently Bhil
tribal folk and the Koknas who evidently migrat-
ed northwards from the Konkan to take over Bhil
lands. This altered the primarily hunting gathering
Bhils who lived off the forest produce towards an
agro pastoral system of rab (Worah 1991). This
type of fragmented forest is seen in the rest of the
Sahyadris. Newer trends in farming are more inten-
sive but may be less dependent on forest biomass.
The most recent trends however in the Dangs is to
sell the teak illegally. In Maharashtra, in some ar-
eas, the rising price of land has led to one time sale
at a high price to urban land sharks, who take over
lands purely for speculation. Agricultural lands
thus remain fallow till urbanisation, electrification
and water supply catch up with the speculators.
Ecologically oriented restoration of land de-
pends on what one wishes to achieve at the end
of the program. The question is restored to what
state? Before human intervention? Pre history?
Historical times? A century ago? W. A. Rodgers
often put this question in perspective when he was
teaching at the Wildlife Institute of India. Current-
ly in the Western Ghats one would wish to restore
ecosystems so that all its biological diversity can be
retained in the long term.
The Society for Ecological Restoration Inter-
national defines ecorestoration as the process of
assisting in the recover of an ecosystem that has
been degraded, damaged or destroyed. Restoration
attempts to return an ecosystem to its historical tra-
jectory (Clewell, Aronson, and Winterhalder 2004)
Habitat improvement strategies in the Western
Ghats would require local peoples initiatives. It
would also be supported by an increasing num-
ber of conservationists nature watchers, birders,
wildlife photographers as well as the recreation-
ists who want to experience what nature is for
its own sake. The latter are conservation conscious
individuals who believe in the intrinsic good of
the wilderness. They believe in the existence value
of natural ecosystems and wish that the wilderness
must be preserved for its aesthetic appeal. While
the importance of protecting all species and in-
dividuals that are alive, that is based on Hindu,
Buddhists, and Jain philosophers, these concepts
have not been used to support the cause of biodi-
versity conservation. This societal value, such as
preservation of sacred groves by tribal folk in the
Ghats has been essentially left out of our modern
conservation philosophy. The ESAs must rely or
these locally important philosophies of life. Re-
storing natural vegetation as attempted by the
Tata Power Company in Mawal Taluka was initi-
ated by setting up nurseries for over 40 species of
trees found in the less disturbed patches of forest
in their catchment areas. Concomitantly soil and
water conservation measures were taken up in the
degraded parts of the catchments of the dams. Old
Eucalyptus and Acacia auriculoformis plantations
were interplanted with local species of trees grown
to a height of 1 to 1.5 meters in large sacks in the
nursery for 3 to 4 years. The overall effect on biodi-
versity was dramatic in restored areas after around
10 years. It showed an increase in abundance of
forest canopy bird species, as well as birds such as
grey jungle fowl and spur fowl in the regenerating
ground cover. The area acted as a training facility
for environmental education and nature awareness
for visitors, trekkers and for guided school visits
by BVIEER. Teacher educators of BVIEER were
able to use the facility to train a large number of lo-
cal school teachers on the use of field studies. The
fringe benefits of this program thus elicited large
social and educational outcomes. School students
exposed to the facility imbibed concepts such as
ecosystems, food chains and food webs not only
through a greater degree of understanding but with
the excitement of personally experiencing the joy
of discovering nature. A respect for nature was an
obvious outcome of this action oriented environ-
ment education program.
Local residents around the catchment benefited
from better and longer stream flows after the mon-
In Lonavala large groups of monsoon trekkers,
stream and waterfall picnickers have grown to
unsustainable limits where the fun and games ap-
proach exceeds the number of real nature enthu-
siasts who require peace and tranquillity. This ex-
pands the role of ecorestoration in these ESAs so
that the needs of both groups can be accommodat-
ed at sustainable levels. Large scale irresponsible
tourism would negate the effects of ecorestoration
of ESAs beyond a threshold of their carrying ca-
pacity. Such activities would drive off wildlife from
even adequately restored habitats. The ESAs can
be used by local people to gain a self-controlled
sustainable access to NTFP, consumptive use of
fuel wood and grazing. Better quality and access
to water sources would be a definite social benefit.
Ecotourism could bring home to local people on
alternate source of income. Education can be sup-
ported through field visits for school students in the
ESA to demonstrate changes in the ecosystem de-
veloped through ecorestoration. Briefly, this strate-
gy towards sustainable ecorestorative development
would bring about a better quality of life for local
The first step to planning at the landscape level
is to document a series of ecologically distinctive
types. These must be categorized into those that
have similar management regimes under different
landscape managers.
This includes:
1. Revenue lands Revenue Department
2. Forest lands Foresters
3. Soil and water conservation - Forest Depart-
4. Agriculture, traditional / Irrigated Agricul-
ture Department
5. Dam catchments Irrigation Department
6. Village surrounds Panchayats, Forest Pro-
tection Committees
7. Urban fringes Regional and Town Planners
8. New Townships Regional Planners
Each of these landscape element managers are
involved with their own land tenure concerns in
the Western Ghats. The Western Ghats Authority
would have to be empowered to use its ability to
bring in a consensus and finality to a participatory
sustainable development paradigm with a view to
conserving the all important biological diversity of
this globally recognized hot spot.
The ecotourism potential of the Ghats can bring
about an alternate income generation source for
local people without compromising on the ecosys-
tem or altering its landscape features. The detailing
has to be done on a village to village basis and re-
quires capacity building in hygiene, water manage-
ment and interpretation facilities. The major pre-
determining aspect is to study the tourism carrying
capacity of the ecotourism site before the program
is implemented.
This appears to be one of the most critical as-
pects of the program of ESA management. The
selection of the sites and development of locale
specific managerial skills is crucial to long term
success of managing a complex network of ESAs.
This will require a multitude of strategies begin-
ning with school teachers and students, communi-
ties, Government officials and Policy makers. Thus
must be a precursor to any local programs and im-
plemented by professional environment educators
with a special interest in Education for Sustainable
Development. Community participation in conser-
vation awareness programs and development of lo-
cale specific educational material is a key to a suc-
cessful ecodevelopment initiative for ecosensitive
locations in the northern Western Ghats.
mplementation of the ESAs cannot be car-
ried out without a formal legal instrument
that supports the Authority with the powers to
execute programs and limit alterations in landuse
that would destroy the Ghats biological diversity.
A large number of Acts, Rules and Regulations al-
ready exist which can be utilized for this purpose.
A brief review of such laws and rules has been
quoted here where individual sections are of rele-
vance for management of ESAs. However, a single
Comprehensive Act of Parliament would undoubt-
edly be a better option in the long term.
The comments on the legislators need to be de-
bated with expert environmental lawyers to bring
about a Comprehensive Act.
All laws have been taken from the Website of the
Ministry of Environment and Forest, Government
of India. These annexures are of relevance to op-
erationalzing the protection required for ecologi-
cally sensitive areas in Western Ghats. They are to
be used in constituting guidelines and Rules that
would be utilized by a statutory Authority in the
Western Ghats in each of the states. The under-
lined sections are of greater relevance in formulat-
ing policies administrative and legal instruments
for the ESAs. The comments are provided for
emphasizing how there existing provisions can be
used or modified to protect ESAs.
ACT, 1986
Implementation of Ecologically Sensitive Areas
in the Western Ghat
The Ecologically Sensitive Areas will require
that the Western Ghat Authority has powers to
frame policy, create rules for its implementation at
Central, State and Local levels; and develop a le-
gal instrument that is specifically developed for the
Western Ghats. This will require setting up a Di-
rectorate for the Western Ghat in the MOEF and
Executive Officers in the five related states.
Comment/Suggestion for Western Ghats Au-
The Environment (Protection) Rules, 1986 can
be suitably modified for Ecologically Sensitive Ar-
eas. Several of its clauses can be used to regulate
Ecologically Sensitive Areas. The EPA Rules de-
fines sensitive areas as area whose ecological bal-
ance is prone to be easily disturbed.
Ministry of Environment and Forests
(Department of Environment, Forest and Wildlife)
New Delhi, the 19th November, 1986
The EPA Rules defines sensitive areas as an
area whose ecological balance is prone to be easily
Comment/Suggestion for Western Ghats Au-
These sites in the Western Ghats need to be se-
lected and categorized to make this an effective set
of norms. The implementing agency will have to
be authorized and empowered to make decisions
as land tenure varies throughout the Ghats. This
includes Revenue lands, Forest, Irrigation and Pan-
chayati lands.
5. Prohibitions and restrictions on the location
of industries and the carrying out processes and
operations in different areas
(1) The Central Government may take into con-
sideration the following factors while prohibiting
or restricting the location of industries and carrying
on of processes and operations in different areas:-
(i) Standards for quality of environment in its
various aspects laid down for an area.
(ii) The maximum allowable limits of concentra-
tion of various environment pollutants (including
noise) for an area.
(iii) The likely emissions or discharge of envi-
ronmental pollution from an industry, process or
operation proposed to be prohibited or restricted,
(iv) The topography and climatic features of an
(v) The biological diversity of the area which, in
the opinion of the Central Government needs to be
(vi) Environmentally compatible land use.
(vii) Net adverse environmental impact likely to
be caused by an industry, process or operation pro-
posed to be prohibited or restricted.
(viii) Proximity to a protected area under the
Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and
Remains Act, 1958 or a sanctuary, National Park,
game reserve or closed area notified as such un-
der the Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972 or places
protected under any treaty, agreement or conven-
tion with any other country or countries or in pur-
suance of any decision made in any international
conference association or other body.
(ix) Proximity to human settlements.
(x) Any other factors as may be considered by
the Central Government to be relevant to the pro-
tection of the environment in an area.
Comment/Suggestion for Western Ghats Au-
The pressure on Ecologically Sensitive Areas de-
clared by the Western Ghat Authority will require
a similar set of provisions. This could be done by
using the EPA itself or creating similar rules for
ESAs by the Western Ghat Authority. Implemen-
tation will require state level agencies for effective
There are several clauses in the Wildlife Protec-
tion Act, the Indian Forest Act and the Forest Con-
servation Act which must be used to provide pro-
tection for make the Ecologically Sensitive Areas.
A few of these clauses could be effectively modi-
fied to be used by the Western Ghat Authority in
managing Ecologically Sensitive Areas.
Wildlife Protection Act amended in 1993
24. Acquisition of rights. (1) In the case of a
claim to a right in or over any land referred to in
Sec.19, the Collector shall pass an order admitting
or rejecting the same in whole or in part.
(2) If such claim is admitted in whole or in part,
the Collector may either
(a) exclude such land from the limits of the pro-
posed sanctuary, or
(b) proceed to acquire such land or rights, except
where by an agreement between the owner of such
land or the holder of rights and the Government
the owner or holder of such rights has agreed to
surrender his rights to the Government, in or over
such land, and payment of such compensation, as
is provided in the Land Acquisition Act, 1894 (1
of 1894) [4(c) allow, in consultation with the Chief
Wildlife Warden, the continuance of any right of
any person in, or over any land within the limits of
the sanctuary.]
Comment/Suggestion for the Western Ghat Au-
In the Ecologically Sensitive Areas a similar pro-
cedure for setting of rights in corridor areas and
areas of special ecological value would have to be
passed by the Western Ghats Authority. Without
similar provisions effective management would not
be possible. A major concern is that this cannot
be done without eliciting the cooperation of local
[5(26A) Declaration of area as Sanctuary. (1)
(a) a notification has been issued under sec.18
and the period for preferring claim has elapsed,
and all claims, if any, made in relation to any land
in an area intended to be declared as a sanctuary,
have been disposed of by the State Government;
or (b) any area comprised within any reserve forest
or any part of the territorial waters, which is con-
sidered by the State Government to be of adequate
ecological, faunal, geomorphological, natural or
zoological significance for the purpose of protect-
ing, propagating or developing wildlife or its envi-
ronment, is to be included in a sanctuary, the State
Government shall issue a notification specifying
the limits of the area which shall be comprised
within the sanctuary and declare that the said area
shall be sanctuary on and from such date as may be
specified in the notification
(3) No alteration of the boundaries of a sanctu-
ary shall be made except on a resolution
passed by the Legislation of the State.]
Comment/Suggestion for the Western Ghat Au-
A similar notification substituting the word
sanctuary by Ecologically Sensitive Area should
be issued to provide a legal framework for Ecologi-
cally Sensitive Areas under the Western Ghats Au-
thority whereby ESAs can be legally declared.
28. Grant of permit. (1) The Chief Wildlife
Warden may, on application, grant to any person
a permit to enter or reside in a sanctuary for all or
any of the following purposes, namely:
(a) investigation or study of wildlife and purpos-
es ancillary or incidental thereto;
(b) photography;
(c) scientific research;
(d) tourism;
(e) transaction of lawful business with any per-
son residing in the sanctuary.
(2) A permit to enter or reside in a sanctuary
shall be issued subject to such conditions and on
payment of such fee as may be prescribed.
Comment/Suggestion for the Western Ghat Au-
A similar notification would have to be created
for Ecologically Sensitive Areas. This would pro-
vide rules for specific utilization of the Ecologi-
cally Sensitive Area, so that people at large begin
to value the area. The level of tourism should be
controlled below the carrying capacity of the area
based on clearly defined parameters.
[8(29) Destruction, etc., in a sanctuary prohib-
ited without a permit. No person shall destroy,
exploit or remove any wildlife from a sanctuary or
destroy or damage the habitat of any wild animal or
deprive any wild animal or its habitat within such
sanctuary except under and in accordance with a
permit granted by the Chief Wildlife Warden and
no such permit shall be granted unless the State
Government being satisfied that such destruction,
exploitation or removal of wildlife from the sanc-
tuary is necessary for the improvement and better
management of wildlife herein authorises the is-
sue of such permit. Explanation: For the purposes
of this section, grazing or movement of livestock
permitted under clause (d) of Sec.33 shall not be
deemed to be an act prohibited under this section.]
Comment/Suggestions for the Western Ghat
A similar notification should be developed for
Ecologically Sensitive Areas to permit the desig-
nated authority to deny or permit certain activities
within Ecologically Sensitive Areas. This would
include prohibiting power lines, gas lines, water
pipes, roads, townships etc.
30. Causing fire prohibited. No person shall set
fire to a sanctuary, or kindle any fire, or leave any
fire burning, in a sanctuary, in such manner as to
endanger such sanctuary.
Comment/Suggestions for the Western Ghat
A similar clause will have to be created for Eco-
logically Sensitive Areas.
31 Prohibition of entry into sanctuary with
weapon. No person shall enter a sanctuary with
any weapon except with the previous permission
in writing of the Chief Wildlife Warden or the au-
thorised officer.
Comment/Suggestions for the Western Ghat
A similar clause will have to be created for Eco-
logically Sensitive Areas.
32. Ban on use of injurious substances. No per-
son shall use in a sanctuary, chemicals, explosives
or any other substances which may cause injury to,
or endanger, any wildlife in such sanctuary.
Comment/Suggestions for the Western Ghat
A similar clause will have to be created for Eco-
logically Sensitive Areas. As these are multiple use
areas there concerns are of greater importance and
will require clearly defined regulations.
33. Control of sanctuaries. The Chief Wildlife
Warden shall be the authority who shall control,
manage and maintain all sanctuaries and for that
purpose, within the limits of any sanctuary,
(a) may construct such roads, bridges, buildings,
fences or barrier gates, and carry out such other
works as he may consider necessary for the pur-
poses of such sanctuary;
(b) shall take such steps as will ensure the secu-
rity of wild animals in the sanctuary and
the preservation of the sanctuary and wild ani-
mals, therein;
(c) may take such measures, in the interests of
wildlife, as he may consider necessary for
the improvement of any habitat.
(d) may regulate, control or prohibit, in keeping
with the interests of wildlife, the grazing or move-
ment of [livestock].
(e) [omitted 19911
Comment/ Suggestion for the Western Ghat Au-
Control of the Ecologically Sensitive Areas will
be managed by the Western Ghat Authority. How-
ever this would require a complete infrastructure
and manpower at the state level. The alternative
would be as follows.
The question here will be to decide who will act
as the controlling authority for Ecologically Sensi-
tive Areas under different land tenures.
In case of RF or PF which are to be included in
Ecologically Sensitive Areas it could be the local
Territorial Forest Officer, or Wildlife Conservator
of the Area.
For areas under Revenue Department, Ecologi-
cally Sensitive Areas outside the Forest Depart-
mental lands, the District Collector shall have to
control local issues within the Ecologically Sensi-
tive Area.
In the case of Catchments of dams and river
courses-This would be controlled through the Ir-
rigation Department.
The possibility of using Village Panchayats to
manage these Ecologically Sensitive Areas, as done
for village forests that are looked after by Village
Ecodevelopment Committees could be an alterna-
tive controlling authority for some ESAs.
Interactions between these various line agencies
and the Western Ghats Authority have to be given
clarity so that implementation is possible at the
ground level.
National Parks
35. Declaration of National Parks. (1) Whenev-
er it appears to the State Government that an area,
whether within a sanctuary or not, is, by reason
of its ecological, faunal, floral, geomorphological,
or zoological association or importance, needed to
be constituted as a National Park for the purpose
of protecting & propagating or developing wildlife
therein or its environment, it may, by notification,
declare its intention to constitute such area as a Na-
tional Park.
(2) The notification referred to in sub-section (1)
shall define the limits of the area which
is intended to be declared as a National Park.
(3) Where any area is intended to be declared
as a National Park, the provisions of Sec. [1219 to
26-A (both inclusive except clause (c) of sub-section
(2) of section 24)] shall, as far as may be, apply to
the investigation and determination of claims and
extinguishment of rights, in relation to any land in
such area as they apply to the said matters in rela-
tion to any land in a sanctuary.
(4) When the following events have occurred,
(a) the period for preferring claims has elapsed,
and all claims, if any, made in relation to
any land in an area intended to be declared as a
National Park, have been disposed of by the State
Government, and
(b) all rights in respect of lands proposed to be
included in the National Park have become vested
in the State Government the State Government
shall publish a notification specifying the limits of
the area which shall be comprised within the Na-
tional Park and declare that the said area shall be
a National Park on and from such date as may be
specified in the notification.
(5) No alteration of the boundaries of a National
Park shall be made except on a resolution passed
by the Legislature of the State.
(6) No person shall, destroy, exploit, or remove
any wildlife from a National Park or destroy or
damage the habitat or any wild animal or deprive
any wild animal or its habitat within such National
Park except under and in accordance with a permit
granted by the Chief Wildlife Warden and no such
permit shall be granted unless the State Govern-
ment, being satisfied that such destruction, exploi-
tation, or removal of wildlife from the National
Park is necessary for the improvement and better
management of wildlife therein, authorises the is-
sue of such permit.
(7) No grazing of any [livestock13] shall be per-
mitted in a National Park and no livestock shall be
allowed to enter except where such [livestock] is
used as a vehicle by a person authorized to enter
such National Park.
(8) The provisions of secs. 27 and 28, secs.30
to 32 (both inclusive), and CIS, (a), (b) and (c) of
[Sec.33, 33A14] and sec.34 shall, as far as may be,
apply in realtion to a National Park as they apply
in relation to a sanctuary.
Comment/Suggestion for Western Ghats Au-
Ecologically Sensitive Areas of very high bio-
logical value may require a set of similar regula-
tory mechanisms. As these areas should in effect be
notified as PAs, which has not occurred for various
political reasons, this would constitute an alterna-
tive for conserving the highly endangered species
and their ecosystem without an alteration in their
Sanctuaries or National Park declared by Cen-
tral Govt.
38. Power of Central Government to declare ar-
eas as Sanctuaries or National Park,
(1) Where the State Government leases or other-
wise transfers any area under its control, not being
an area within a Sanctuary, to the Central Govern-
ment the Central Government may, if it is satisfied
that the conditions specified in sec.18 are fulfilled
in relation to the area so transferred to it, declare
such area, by notification, to be a sanctuary and
the provisions of [sec 18 to 35 (both inclusive) 16],
54 and 55 shall apply in relation to such sanctuary
as they apply in relation to a sanctuary declared by
the State Government.
Comment/Suggestion for Western Ghats Au-
Similar powers should be provided for the West-
ern Ghats Authority which should be with the
Central Government as the Ecologically Sensitive
Areas are in five states. Each state would also have
to setup its own State level authority as has been
suggested for implementation of the Biodiversity
18A. (1) When the State Government declares
its intention under sub-section of section 18 to con-
stitute any area, not comprised within any reserve
forest or territorial waters under that sub-section,
as a sanctuary, the-provisions of sections 27 to 33A
(both inclusive) shall come into effect forthwith.
Comment/ Suggestion for the Western Ghat Au-
A similar clause will have to be used when a
Western Ghat Authority decides to notify an area
as an Ecologically Sensitive Area.
(2) Till such time as the rights of affected per-
sons are finally settled under sections 19 to 24 (both
inclusive), the State Government shall make alter-
native arrangements required for making available
fuel, fodder and other forest produce to the persons
affected in terms of their rights as per the Govern-
ment records.
Comment/ Suggestion for the Western Ghat Au-
A similar clause will have to be developed for
Ecologically Sensitive Areas.
Declaration and Management of a Conserva-
tion Reserve
36A. (1) The State Government may, after
having consultations with the local communities,
declare any area owned by the Government, par-
ticularly the areas adjacent to National Parks and
sanctuaries and those areas which link one protect-
ed area with another, as a conservation reserve for
protecting landscapes, seascapes, flora and fauna
and their habitat:
Provided that where the conservation reserve
includes any land owned by the Central Govern-
ment, its prior concurrence shall be obtained be-
fore making such declaration.
Comment/ Suggestion for the Western Ghat Au-
The declaration is for the same purpose as an
Ecologically Sensitive Area. However, few if any
such corridor areas have been created as it is un-
likely to get support from local communities unless
they are given just and fair compensation for creat-
ing an Ecologically Sensitive Area.
(2) The provisions of sub-section (2) of section
18, sub-sections (2), (3) and (4) of section 27, sec-
tions 30, 32 and clauses (b) and (c) of section 33
shall, as far as may be, apply in relation to a conser-
vation reserve as they apply in relation to a sanctu-
Conservation Reserve Management Committee
36B. (1) The State Government shall constitute
a conservation reserve management committee to
advise the Chief Wild Life Warden to conserve,
manage and maintain the conservation reserve.
Comment/Suggestion for Western Ghats Au-
A local Ecologically Sensitive Area management
committee under the Western Ghat Authority may
act as the outreach controlling mechanism at a lo-
cal or regional leve; within the Western Ghat.
(2) The committee shall consist of a representa-
tive of the forest or Wild Life Department, who
shall be the Member-Secretary of the Commit-
tee, one representative of each Village Panchayat
in whose jurisdiction the reserve is located, three
representatives of non-governmental organisations
working in the field of wild life conservation and
one representative each from the Department of
Agriculture and Animal Husbandry.
(3) The Committee shall regulate its own proce-
dure including the quorum.
Comment/ Suggestion for the Western Ghat Au-
This has so far not been successfully ensured and
the Ecologically Sensitive Areas must have a regu-
lation in place where existing activities are limited
and new activities that could place undue pressures
on the Ecologically Sensitive Areas are not initiat-
ed. This includes the development of roads, dams,
townships etc.
Declaration and Management of Community
36C. (1) The State Government may, where the
community or an individual has volunteered to
conserve wild life and its habitat, declare any pri-
vate or community land not comprised within a
National Park, sanctuary or a conservation reserve,
as a community reserve, for protecting fauna, flora
and traditional or cultural conservation values and
(2) The provisions of sub-section (2) of section
18, sub-sections (2), (3) and (4) of section 27, sec-
tions 30, 32 and clauses (b) and (c) of section 33
shall, as far as may be, apply in relation to a com-
munity reserve as they apply in relation to a sanctu-
(3) After the issue of notification under sub-sec-
tion (1), no change in the land use pattern shall be
made within the community reserve, except in ac-
cordance with a resolution passed by the manage-
ment, committee and approval of the same by the
State Government.
Comment/ Suggestion for the Western Ghat Au-
Selected Ecologically Sensitive Areas could be
managed in the same way as suggested for Com-
munity Reserves. However, in the Western Ghat
this has not been successfully implemented at pres-
The Indian Forest Act, 1927 has several claus-
es that can be suitably modified for regulating
resource use in Ecologically Sensitive Areas. De-
pending on the conservation value and threat levels
a set of principles would have to be developed and
judicial powers given to the Western Ghat Author-
ity to use these provisions in a legal sense.
3. Power to reserve forests.The State Govern-
ment may constitute any forest-land or waste-land
which is the property of Government, or over
which the Government has proprietary rights, or
to the whole or any part of the forest-produce of
which the Government is entitled, a reserved forest
in the manner hereinafter provided.
Comment/Suggestions for the Western Ghat
Power to create Ecologically Sensitive Areas
should rest with the Western Ghat Authority with
a mandate to limit any further pressures on Eco-
logically Sensitive Areas of the Western Ghat.
4. Notification by State Government.-(1) When-
ever it has been decided to constitute any land a
reserved forest, the State Government shall issue a
notification in the Official Gazette
(a) declaring that it has been decided to consti-
tute such land a reserved forest;
(b) specifying, as nearly as possible, the situation
and limits of such land; and
(c) appointing an officer (hereinafter called the
Forest Settlement-officer) to inquire into and de-
termine the existence, nature and extent of any
rights alleged to exist in favour of any person in or
over any land comprised within such limits or in or
over any forest-produce, and to deal with the same
as provided in this Chapter.
Explanation.For the purpose of clause (b), it
shall be sufficient to describe the limits of the for-
est by roads, rivers, ridges or other well-known or
readily intelligible boundaries.
(2) The officer appointed under clause (c) of sub-
section (1) shall ordinarily be a person not holding
any forest-office except that of Forest Settlement-
(3) Nothing in this section shall prevent the State
Government from appointing any number of of-
ficers not exceeding three, not more than one of
whom shall be a person holding any forest-office
except as aforesaid, to perform the duties of a For-
est Settlement-officer under this Act.
Comment/Suggestions for the Western Ghat
A similar regulatory function will be required if
Ecologically Sensitive Areas have to be successfully
implemented at State level. The limits of ESAs can
be decided using Geoinformatics to study vegeta-
tion, slope, hydrology etc.
5. Bar of accrual of forest-rights.After the is-
sue of a notification under section 4, no right shall
be acquired in or over the land comprised in such
notification, except by succession or under a grant
or contract in writing made or entered into by or
on behalf of the Government or some person in
whom such right was vested when the notification
was issued; and no fresh clearings for cultivation or
for any other purpose shall be made in such land
except in accordance with such rules as may be
made by the State Government in this behalf.
Comment/Suggestions for the Western Ghat
Similar clause for Ecologically Sensitive Areas
will have to be created.
6. Proclamation by Forest Settlement-officer.
When a notification has been issued under section
4, the Forest Settlement-officer shall publish in the
local vernacular in every town and village in the
neighbourhood of the land comprised therein, a
(a) specifying, as nearly as possible, the situation
and limits of the proposed forest;
(b) explaining the consequences which, as here-
inafter provided, will ensue on the reservation of
such forest; and
(c) fixing a period of not less than three months
from the date of such proclamation, and requir-
ing every person claiming any right mentioned in
section 4 or section, 5 within such period either
to present to the Forest Settlement-officer a writ-
ten notice specifying or to appear before him and
state, the nature of such right and the amount and
particulars of the compensation (if any) claimed in
respect thereof.
9. Extinction of rights.-Rights in respect of
which no claim has been preferred under section
6, and of the existence of which no knowledge has
been acquired by inquiry under section 7, shall be
extinguished, unless before the notification under
section 20 is published, the person claiming them
satisfies the Forest Settlement-officer that he had
sufficient cause for not preferring such claim with-
in the period fixed under section 6.
Comment/Suggestions for the Western Ghat
A similar clause will have to be developed for
Ecologically Sensitive Areas.
10. Treatment of claims relating to practice of
shifting cultivation.(1) In the case of a claim
relating to the practice of shifting cultivation, the
Forest Settlement-officer shall record a statement
setting forth the particulars of the claim and of any
local rule or order under which the practice is al-
lowed or regulated, and submit the statement to the
State Government, together with his opinion as to
whether the practice should be permitted or pro-
hibited wholly or in part.
(2) On receipt of the statement and opinion, the
State Government may make an order permitting
or prohibiting the practice wholly or in part.
(3) If such practice is permitted wholly or in
part, the Forest Settlement-officer may arrange for
its exercise
(a) by altering the limits of the land under settle-
ment so as to exclude land of sufficient extent, of
a suitable kind, and in a locality reasonably conve-
nient for the purposes of the claimants, or
(b) by causing certain portions of the land under
settlement to be separately demarcated, and giving
permission to the claimants to practice shifting cul-
tivation therein under such conditions as he may
(4) All arrangements made under sub-section
(3) shall be subject to the previous sanction of the
State Government.
(5) The practice of shifting cultivation shall in
all cases be deemed a privilege subject to control,
restriction and abolition by the State Government.
Comment/Suggestions for the Western Ghat
Rabi cultivation occurs across the Western Ghats.
Thus, a similar set of conditions would apply to
traditional agricultural areas across the length of
the Western Ghats. In the ESAs such land should
not be converted to other forms of landuse in the
Western Ghats.
11. Power to acquire land over which right is
claimed.(1) In the case of a claim to a right in or
over any land, other than a right of way or right
of pasture, or a right to forest produce or a water-
course, the Forest Settlement-officer shall pass an
order admitting or rejecting the same in whole or
in part.
(2) If such claim is admitted in whole or in part,
the Forest Settlement-officer shall either
(i) exclude such land- from the limits of the pro-
posed forest; or
(ii) come to an agreement with the owner there-
of for the surrender of his rights; or
(iii) proceed to acquire such land in the manner
provided by the Land Acquisition Act, 1894 (1 of
(3) For the purpose of so acquiring such land
(a) the Forest Settlement-officer shall be deemed
to be a Collector proceeding under the Land Ac-
quisition Act, 1894 (1 of 1894);
(b) the claimant shall be deemed to be a person
interested and appearing before him in pursuance
of a notice given under section 9 of that Act;
(c) the provisions of the preceding sections of
that Act shall be deemed to have been complied
with; and
(d) the Collector, with the consent of the claim-
ant, or the Court, with the consent of both parties,
may award compensation in land, or partly in land
and partly in money.
Comment/Suggestions for the Western Ghat
Issues related to rights and privileges will emerge
once the Ecologically Sensitive Areas are declared,
requiring a similar set of procedures.
12. Order on claims to rights of pasture or to
forest-produce.In the case of a claim to rights of
pasture or to forest-produce, the Forest Settlement-
officer shall pass an order admitting or rejecting the
same in whole or in part.
Comment/Suggestions for the Western Ghat
Similar claims have to be decided on for grazing
areas that will be considered Ecologically Sensi-
tive Area under the Western Ghats Authority. Lo-
cal communities are agropastoralists who use the
wastelands as their pastures which frequently re-
sult in overgrazing beyond the carrying capacity of
the pasture. Apart from the local community, in the
Western Ghat of Maharashtra, the Dhangar com-
munity migrates annually from the Mann Plateau
into the Kokan plains. Their linkage to the grazing
land they use along the passes and hill slopes will
undoubtedly be obstructed by creating Ecological-
ly Sensitive Areas. This would form a new area of
conflict that will require mitigation.
13. Record to be made by Forest Settlement-of-
ficer.The Forest Settlement officer, when passing
any order under section 12, shall record, so far as
may be practicable,
(a) the name, fathers name, caste, residence and
occupation of the person claiming the right; and
(b) the designation, position and area of all fields
or groups fields (if any), and the designation and
position of all buildings (if any) in respect of which
the exercise of such rights is claimed.
14. Record where he admits claim.If the Forest
Settlement-officer admits in whole or in part any
claim under section 12, he shall also record the ex-
tent to which the claim is so admitted, specifying
the number and description of the cattle which the
claimant is from time to time entitled to graze in
the forest, the season during which such pasture is
permitted, the quantity of timber and other forest
produce which he is from time to time authorised
to take or receive, and such other particulars as the
case may require. He shall also record whether the
timber or other forest-produce obtained by the ex-
ercise of the rights claimed may be sold or bartered.
Comment/Suggestions for the Western Ghat
This will require special attention if the Ecologi-
cally Sensitive Areas will have to reject certain ex-
isting claims.
15. Exercise of rights admitted.-(1) After mak-
ing such record the Forest Settlement officer shall,
to the best of his ability, having due regard to the
maintenance of the reserved forest in respect of
which the claim is made, pass such orders as will
ensure the continued exercise of the rights so ad-
(2) For this purpose the Forest Settlement-officer
(a) set out some other forest-tract of sufficient
extent, and in a locality reasonably convenient, for
the purposes of such claimants, and record an or-
der conferring upon them a right of pasture or to
forest-produce (as the case may be) to the extent so
admitted; or
(b) so alter the limits of the proposed forest as
to exclude forest-land of sufficient extent, and in a
locality reasonably convenient, for the purposes of
the claimants; or
(c) record an order, continuing to such claimants
a right of pasture or to forest-overpage produce, as
the case may be, to the e tent so admitted, at such
seasons, within such portions of the proposed for-
est, and under such rules, as may be made in this
behalf by the State Government.
16. Commutation of rights.In case the Forest
Settlement-officer finds it impossible having due
regard to the maintenance of the reserved forest, to
make such settlement under section 15 as shall en-
sure the continued exercise of the said rights to the
extent so admitted, he shall, subject to such rules
as the State Government may make in this behalf,
commute such rights, by the payment to such per-
sons of a sum of money in lieu thereof, or by the
grant of land, or in such other manner as he thinks
Comment/Suggestions for the Western Ghat
Such problems created by Ecologically Sensi-
tive Areas may have to be dealt with by providing
a fund for this purpose. It may be possible to ear
mark CAMPA funds for such purposes.
17. Appeal from order passed under section 11,
section 12, section 15 or section 16.Any person
who has made a claim under this Act, or any For-
est-officer or other person generally or specially
empowered by the State Government in this be-
half, may, within three months from the date of
the order passed on such claim by the Forest Settle-
ment-officer under section 11, section 12, section
15 or section 16, present an appeal from such or-
der to such officer of the Revenue Department of
rank not lower than that of a Collector, as the State
Government may, by notification in the Official
Gazette, appoint to hear appeals from such orders:
Provided that the State Government may estab-
lish a Court (hereinafter called the Forest Court)
composed of three persons to be appointed by the
State Government, and when the Forest Court has
been so established, all such appeals shall be pre-
sented to it.
Comment/Suggestions for the Western Ghat
The Ecologically Sensitive Areas under the
Western Ghats Authority may also require judicial
capability for supporting Ecologically Sensitive Ar-
18. Appeal under section 17.(1) Every appeal
under section 17 shall be made by petition in writ-
ing, and may be delivered to the Forest Settlement-
officer, who shall forward it without delay to the
authority competent to hear the same.
(2) If the appeal be to an officer appointed un-
der section 17, it shall be heard in the manner pre-
scribed for the time being for the hearing of appeals
in matters relating to land-revenue.
(3) If the appeal be to the Forest Court, the
Court shall fix a day and a convenient place in the
neighbourhood of the proposed forest for hearing
the appeal, and shall give notice thereof to the par-
ties, and shall hear such appeal accordingly.
(4) The order passed on the appeal by such offi-
cer or Court, or by the majority of the members of
such Court, as the case may be, shall, subject only
to revision by the State Government, be final.
19. Pleaders.The State Government, or any
person who has made a claim under this Act, may
appoint any person to appear, plead and act on its
or his behalf before the Forest Settlement-officer,
or the appellate officer or Court, in the course of
any inquiry or appeal under this Act.
25. Power to stop ways and water-courses in
reserved forests.The Forest-officer may, with the
previous sanction of the State Government or of
any officer duly authorised by it in this behalf,
stop any public or private way or water-course in
a reserved forest, provided that a substitute for the
way or water-course so stopped, which the State
Government deems to be reasonably convenient,
already exists, or has been provided or constructed
by the Forest-officer in lieu thereof.
Comment/Suggestions for the Western Ghat
Similar issues would emerge from the notifica-
tion of Ecologically Sensitive Areas.
26. Acts prohibited in such forests.(1) Any per-
son who
(a) makes any fresh clearing prohibited by sec-
tion 5, or
(b) sets fire to a reserved forest, or, in contraven-
tion of any rules made by the State Government in
this behalf, kindles any fire, or leaves any fire burn-
ing, in such manner as to endanger such a forest;
or who, in a reserved forest
(c) kindles, keeps or carries any fire except at
such seasons as the Forest-officer may notify in this
(d) trespasses or pastures cattle, or permits cattle
to trespass;
(e) causes any damage by negligence in felling
any tree or cutting or dragging any timber;
(f) fells, girdles, lops, or bums any tree or strips
off the bark or leaves from, or otherwise damages,
the same;
(g) quarries stone, bums lime or charcoal, or col-
lects, subjects to any manufacturing process, or re-
moves, any forest-produce;
(h) clears or breaks up any land for cultivation or
any other purpose;
(i) in contravention of any rules made in this be-
half by the State Government hunts, shoots, fishes,
poisons water or sets traps or snares; or
(j) in any area in which the Elephants Preserva-
tion Act, 1879 (6 of 1879), is not in force, kills or
catches elephants in contravention of any rules so
made, shall be punishable with imprisonment for a
term which may extend to six months, or with fine
which may extend to five hundred rupees, or with
both, in addition to such compensation for dam-
age done to the forest as the convicting Court may
direct to be paid.
Comment/Suggestions for the Western Ghat
These conditions all apply to ESAs and require
sensitive management to prevent conflicts with lo-
cal people. Similar rules will have to apply to Eco-
logically Sensitive Areas that are not in Reserve
Forest or Protected Forest, but are in malkilands.
This could create severe conflict issues which will
have to be addressed if these areas are to be effec-
tively managed as Ecologically Sensitive Areas.
Compensation will require setting up a fund to be
distributed where local landowners will be affected
by creating ESAs.
(2) Nothing in this section shall be deemed to
(a) any act done by permission in writing of the
Forest-officer, or under any rule made by the state
Government; or
(b) the exercise of any right continued under
clause (c) of sub-section (2) of section 15, or cre-
ated by grant or contract in writing made by or on
behalf of the Government under section 23.
(3) Whenever fire is caused wilfully or by gross
negligence in a reserved forest, the State Govern-
ment may (notwithstanding that any penalty has
been inflicted under this section) direct that in such
forest or any portion there of the exercise of all
rights of pasture or to forest produce shall be sus-
pended for such period as it thinks fit.
2. Restriction on the dereservation of forests or
use of forest land for non-forest purpose.
Notwithstanding anything contained in any
other law for the time being in force in a State, no
State Government or other authority shall make,
except with the prior approval of the Central Gov-
ernment, any order directing-
(i) that any reserved forest (within the meaning
of the expression reserved forest in any law for
the time being in force in that State) or any portion
thereof, shall cease to be reserved;
(ii) that any forest land or any portion thereof
may be used for any non-forest purpose;
(iii) that any forest land or any portion thereof
may be assigned by way of lease or otherwise to
any private person or to any authority, corporation,
agency or any other organisation not owned, man-
aged or controlled by Government;
(iv) that any forest land or any portion thereof
may be cleared of trees which have grown natural-
ly in that land or portion, for the purpose of using
it for reafforestation.
Explanation - For the purpose of this section,
non-forest purpose means the breaking up or
clearing of any forest land or portion thereof for-
(a) the cultivation of tea, coffee, spices, rubber,
palms, oil-bearing plants, horticultural crops or
medicinal plants;
(b) any purpose other than reafforestation;
but does not include any work relating or ancil-
lary to conservation, development and management
of forests and wildlife, namely, the establishment
of check-posts, fire lines, wireless communications
and construction of fencing, bridges and culverts,
dams, waterholes, trench marks, boundary marks,
pipelines or other like purposes.
Comments and Suggestions for Western Ghats
This section of the Forest Conservation Act must
be suitably modified and used for protecting ESAs
from further degradation. It should not be possible
for State Governments to remove the Ecologically
Sensitive Area status once it has been created on
good scientific grounds.
Ministry of Environment and Forests
New Delhi, the 10th January, 2003
G.S.R.23(E):- In exercise of the powers conferred
by sub-section (1) of section 4 of the Forest (Con-
servation) Act, 1980 (69 of 1980), and in superses-
sion of the Forest (Conservation) Rules, 1981, ex-
cept as respects things done or omitted to be done
before such supersession, the Central Government
hereby makes the following rules, namely:-
6. Submission of the proposals seeking approval
of the Central Government under section 2 of the
(1) Every user agency, who wants to use any for-
est land for non-forest purposes shall make his pro-
posal in the appropriate Form appended to these
rules, i.e. Form A for proposals seeking first time
approval under the Act and Form B for propos-
als seeking renewal of leases where approval of the
Central Government under the Act had already
been obtained earlier, to the concerned nodal of-
ficer authorized in this behalf by the State Govern-
ment, alongwith requisite information and docu-
ments, complete in all respects, well in advance of
taking up any non-forest activity on the forest land.
Comment/Suggestions for Western Ghats Au-
A similar clause will have to be developed for the
Ecologically Sensitive Areas in the Western Ghat.
(2) Every State Government or other authority,
after having received the proposal under sub-rule
(1) and after being satisfied that the proposal re-
quires prior approval under section 2 of the Act,
shall send the proposal to the Central Government
in the appropriate forms, within ninety days of the
receipt of the proposal from the user agency for
proposals seeking first time approval under the Act
and within sixty days for proposals seeking renewal
of leases where approval of the Central Govern-
ment under the Act had already been obtained ear-
Provided that all proposals involving clearing
naturally grown trees in forest land or portion
thereof for the purpose of using it for reafforesta-
tion shall be sent in the form of Working Plan or
Management Plan.
(3) The proposal referred to in sub-rule (2) above,
involving forest land of more than forty hectare
shall be sent by the State Government to the Secre-
tary to the Government of India, Ministry of En-
vironment and Forests, Paryavaran Bhavan, CGO
Complex, Lodhi Road, New Delhi-110 003, with a
copy of the proposal (with complete enclosures) to
the concerned Regional Office.
(4) The proposal referred to in sub-rule (2) above,
involving forest land up to forty hectare shall be
sent to the Chief Conservator of Forests or Conser-
vator of Forests of the concerned Regional Office
of the Ministry of Environment and Forests.
(5) The proposal referred to in sub-rule (2) above,
involving clearing of naturally grown trees in for-
est land or portion thereof for the purpose of us-
ing it for reafforestation shall be sent to the Chief
Conservator of Forests or Conservator of Forests
of the concerned Regional Office of the Ministry
of Environment and Forests.
7. Committee to advice on proposals received
by the Central Government.-(1) The Central Gov-
ernment shall refer every proposal, complete in all
respects, received by it under sub-rule (3) of rule 6
including site inspection report, wherever required,
to the Committee for its advice thereon.
(2) The Committee shall have due regard to all
or any of the following matters while tendering its
advice on the proposals referred to it under sub-
rule (1), namely:-
Whether the forests land proposed to be used for
non-forest purpose forms part of a nature reserve,
national park wildlife sanctuary, biosphere reserve
or forms part of the habitat or any endangered or
threatened species of flora and fauna or of an area
lying in severely eroded catchment;
Whether the use of any forest land is for agricul-
tural purposes or for the rehabilitation of persons
displaced from their residences by reason of any
river valley or hydro-electric project ;
Whether the State Government or the other au-
thority has certified that it has considered all other
alternatives and that no other alternatives in the
circumstances are feasible and that the required
area is the minimum needed for the purpose; and
Whether the State Government or the other au-
thority undertakes to provide at its cost for the ac-
quisition of land of an equivalent area and affores-
tation thereof.
(3) While tendering the advice, the Committee
may also suggest any conditions or restrictions on
the use of any forest land for any non-forest pur-
pose, which in its opinion, would minimise adverse
environmental impact.
Comment/Suggestions for Western Ghats Au-
The Western Ghats Authority should receive a
specific mandate to study proposals and recom-
mend necessary changes of landuse in the Western
Action of the Central Government on the ad-
vice of the Committee. The Central Government
shall, after considering the advice of the Commit-
tee tendered under rule 7 and after such further en-
quiry as it may consider necessary, grant approval
to the proposal with or without conditions or reject
the same within sixty days of its receipt.
Proceedings against persons guilty of offences
under the Act.-
(1) The Central Government may, by notifica-
tion, authorize any officer not below the rank of
Conservator of Forests or the concerned forest of-
ficer having territorial jurisdiction over the forest
land in respect of which the said offence is said to
have been committed, to file complaints against
the person (s) prima-facie found guilty of offence
under the Act or the violation of the rules made
there under, in the court having jurisdiction in the
Provided that no complaint shall be filed in the
court, without giving the person (s) or officer (s) or
authority (s) against whom the allegations of of-
fence exist, an opportunity to explain his or their
conduct and to show cause, by issuing a notice in
writing of not less than sixty days, as to why a com-
plaint should not be filed in the court against him
or them for alleged offences.
(2) The officer authorised by the Central Gov-
ernment in sub-rule (1) may require any State Gov-
ernment or its officer or any person or any other
authority to furnish to it within a specified period
any reports, documents, statistics and any other
information related to contravention of the Act or
the rules made there under, considered necessary
for making a complaint in any court of jurisdiction
and every such State Government or officer or per-
son or authority shall be bound to do so.
Comment/Suggestions for Western Ghats Au-
Similar clauses to punish guilty individuals of
offences within the Ecologically Sensitive Areas
will require to be formulated.
Several of the Ecologically Sensitive Areas are
to be notified due to their high biodiversity values.
Relevant clauses of the Biological Diversity Act,
2002 would apply to the Ecologically Sensitive
Areas. However, as these are applicable to specific
areas it may be essential to create modifications
which may permit these to be used by the Western
Ghat Authority in maintaining biological values of
the Ecologically Sensitive Areas.
Biological Diversity Act- 2002
Duties of the Central and the State Governments
Central Government to develop National strate-
gies plans. etc., for conservation, etc., of biological
36.(1) The Central Government shall develop
national strategies, plans, programmes for the con-
servation and promotion and sustainable use of
biological diversity including measures for identi-
fication and monitoring of areas rich in biological
resources, promotion of in situ, and ex situ, con-
servation of biological resources, incentives for re-
search, training and public education to increase
awareness with respect to biodiversity.
Comment/Suggestions for Western Ghats Au-
All these concerns are of great importance in the
effective management of the Ecologically Sensitive
(2) Where the Central Government has reason
to believe that any area rich in biological diversi-
ty, biological resources and their habitats is being
threatened by overuse, abuse or neglect, it shall is-
sue directives to the concerned State Government
to take immediate ameliorative measures, offering
such State Government any technical and other as-
sistance that is possible to be provided or needed.
Comment/Suggestions for Western Ghats Au-
The Western Ghat Authority will be responsible
for preventing threats affecting biological diversity
within the Ecologically Sensitive Areas. Taking
these steps would require locale specific studies
and financial resources which should be provided
through the Planning Commission as a Planned
Budgetary Allocation for the Western Ghat.
(3) The Central Government shall, as far as prac-
ticable wherever it deems appropriate, integrate the
conservation, promotion and sustainable use of
biological diversity into relevant sectoral or cross
sectoral plans, programmes and policies.
4) The Central Government shall undertake
(i) wherever necessary, for assessment of envi-
ronmental impact of that project which is likely to
have adverse effect on biological diversity, with a
view to avoid or minimize such effects and where
appropriate provide for public participation in such
Comment/Suggestions for Western Ghats Au-
Current EIAs give insufficient attention to bio-
logical diversity values and possible threats. This
requires urgent attention in the Western Ghat-Eco-
logically Sensitive Areas. The studies on biodiver-
sity in the Ecologically Sensitive Areas for EIAs
must go beyond providing a list of species. Species
richness, abundance studies on floral and faunal el-
ements within and around the proposed project site
must be include in EIAs that are to be conducted
in Ecologically Sensitive Areas. Once a proposed
project has been passed and implemented they
must be regularly monitored for compliance by the
Western Ghats Authority.
(ii) to regulate, manage or control the risks associ-
ated with the use and release of living modified or-
ganisms resulting from biotechnology likely to have
adverse impact on the conservation and sustain-
able use of biological diversity and human health.
(5) The Central Government shall endeavor to re-
spect and protect the knowledge of local people re-
lating to biological diversity, as recommended by
the National Biodiversity Authority through such
measures, which may include registration of such
knowledge at the local, State or national levels, and
other measures for protection, including sui generis
Comment/Suggestions for Western Ghats Au-
A similar section must be developed for people
living in and around the Ecologically Sensitive Ar-
eas of the Western Ghat.
Biodiversity heritage sites
37.(1) Without prejudice to any other law for
the time being in force, the State Government may,
from time to time in consultation with the local
bodies, notify in the Official Gazette, areas of bio-
diversity importance as biodiversity heritage sites
under this Act.
Comment/Suggestions for Western Ghats Au-
The Ecologically Sensitive Areas would
benefit by using a similar clause as many of
the Western Ghat Ecologically Sensitive Ar-
eas will have areas of biological importance.
(2) The State Government, in consultation with the
Central Government, may frame rules for the man-
agement and conservation of all the heritage sites.
(3) The State Government shall frame schemes for
compensating or rehabilitating any person or sec-
tion of people economically affected by such noti-
Power of Central Government to notify threat-
ened species
38. Without prejudice to the provisions of any
other law for the time being in force, the Central
Government, in consultation with the concerned
State Government, may from time to time notify
any species which is on the verge of extinction
or likely to become extinct in the near future as a
threatened species and prohibit or regulate collec-
tion thereof for any purpose and take appropriate
steps to rehabilitate and preserve those species.
Comment/Suggestions for Western Ghats Au-
The threatened endemic and rare species or those
ESAs that have a limited range must be protected
under a similar legal clause. This will be one of the
major activities under the Western Ghats Author-
Power of Central Government to designate re-
39.(1) The Central Government may, in consul-
tation with the National Biodiversity Authority,
designate institutions as repositories under this Act
for different categories of biological resources.
(2) The repositories shall keep in safe custody
the biological material including voucher speci-
mens deposited with them.
(3) Any new taxon discovered by any person
shall be notified to the repositories or any institu-
tion designated for this purpose and he shall de-
posit the voucher specimens with such repository
or institution.
Comment/Suggestions for Western Ghats Au-
Similar consultation with the Western Ghats
Authority should be used and State level research
organizations should be funded for biodiversity
conservation assessments by the Authority within
the selected ESAs. As the Western Ghats are po-
tentially areas where new endemic species can be
discovered, the Authority must have powers to de-
cide on activities related to the conservation of spe-
cies both in situ and exsitu.
New Delhi 17th January, 2001
S.O 52(E). Whereas a notification under sub
section (1) and clause (v) of sub section (2) of Sec-
tion 3 of the Environment Protection Act, 1986,
inviting objection or suggestion against the notifi-
cation notifying the Mahableshwar Panchgani as
an Eco sensitive region and imposing restriction on
industries, operations, processes and other devel-
opmental activities in the region which have detri-
mental effect on the environment was published
in S.O. No. 693(E) dated the 25th July, 2000;
And whereas all objections or/and sugges-
tions received have been duly considered by the
Central Government
Now, therefore, in exercise of the powers
conferred by clause (d) of sub-rule (3) of rule 5 of
the Environment (Protection) Rules, 1986, and all
other powers vesting in its behalf, the Central Gov-
ernment hereby notify the Mahableshwar
Panchgani Region (as defined in the Government
of Maharashtra notification of 29th April, 1983
as an Eco Sensitive Zone. (Copy attached as An-
nexure). The Region shall include the entire area
within the boundaries of the Mahableshwar Tehsil
and the villages of Bondarwadi, Bhuteghar, Dan-
wali, Taloshi and Umbri of Jaoli Tehsil of the Sa-
tara District in the Maharashtra state.
All activities in the forests (both within and out-
side municipal areas) shall be governed by the pro-
visions of the Indian Forests Act, 1927 (16 of 1927)
and Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980 (69 of 1980).
All activities in the sanctuaries and national parks
shall be governed by the provisions of the Wildlife
(Protection) Act, 1972 (53 of 1972).
2.The following activities are proposed to be reg-
ulated in the Eco-Sensitive Zone.
(a) Zonal Master Plan: -
A Master plan for the entire Zone shall be pre-
pared by the State Government and approved by
the Ministry of Environment and Forests in the
Government of India within a period of two years
from the date of publication of this notification.
The Master Plan shall be published by following a
procedure similar to that prescribed under the Ma-
harashtra Regional and Town Planning Act 1966.
The Master Plan shall clearly indicate those limited
areas where industries may be permitted.
The said Master Plan shall clearly demarcate
all the existing forests, green areas, horticultural
areas such as strawberry farms, raspberry farms,
orchards, tribal areas, and other environmentally
sensitive areas. No change of land use from green
uses such as horticultural areas, agriculture, parks
and other like places to non-green uses shall be per-
mitted in the Master Plan. The Master Plan shall
indicate measures and lay down stipulations for
regulating traffic, especially through traffic in the
Eco sensitive zone.
The areas within and outside Mahableshwar
and Panchgani municipal areas shall have Sub-
Zonal Master Plans which may be prepared by the
State Government as a component of the Zonal
Master Plan and concurrence of the Ministry of
Environment and Forests shall be obtained on
this. This Sub-Zonal Master Plan shall include
building regulations for the gaothan areas.
Pending the preparation of and approval by the
Ministry of Environment and Forests to the Zonal
Master Plan and Sub-Zonal Master Plans referred
to above, there shall be no increase in the existing
parameters of permissible Floor Area Ratio, per-
missible height, permissible maximum number of
storeys and permissible ground coverage; and there
shall also be no reduction in the Forest Zone/
Green Zone/Agricultural Zone. Absolute height
of buildings shall not exceed 9 metres and number
of storeys shall not exceed ground plus one.
Industrial Units: -
Location of industries shall be only in the desig-
nated industrial areas or estates and has to be as per
guidelines drawn up by the Government of Maha-
rashtra as well as the guidelines issued from time to
time by the Ministry of Environment and Forests.
However this would not apply to all those units
which have obtained Consent to establish and all
other statutory permissions and have commenced
construction at site on or before the date of issue of
this notification.
In future only non polluting non hazardous ser-
vice industries, units making footwear from pro-
cessed and ready made leather, floriculture, horti-
culture based or agro based industries producing
products from indigenous goods from the Eco Sen-
sitive Zone shall be permitted in this zone:
Provided that these do not result in polluting ef-
fluent, emission or impact.
Comment/Suggestion for Western Ghats Au-
This clause should be used for all ESAs in the
Western Ghats.
In the non municipal areas, the following shall
also be permitted:
Larger dairy, poultry, mush-room-rearing and
other units in the nature of allied agricultural ac-
tivities and structures connected therewith may be
allowed with the prior permission of the compe-
tent authority subject to a maximum of 1/8th built
up area, relaxable by the Monitoring Committee.
Structures connected with small agro-based in-
dustries, activities related to the needs of the local
village economy, and processing or storage of local
agro-based products may be allowed subject to the
usual not agriculture permission requirements
and a maximum built up area of 1/8th.
Quarrying and Mining: - Quarrying and Min-
ing activities shall be banned in this area. No fresh
mining lease shall be granted in the Eco Sensitive
Zone. However, the Monitoring Committee shall
be the authority to give special permission for lim-
ited quarrying of materials required for the con-
struction of local residential housing and tradition-
al road maintenance work only; provided that such
quarrying is not done on forestlands.
Comment/Suggestion for Western Ghats Au-
This is of great relevance to managing ESAs as
it constitutes a severe threat to large areas in the
Ghats in Maharashtra and Goa.
Trees: -There shall be no felling of trees whether
on Forest, Government, Revenue or private lands
within the Eco-Sensitive Zone, without the prior
permission of the State Government in case of for-
est land, and the respective District Collector in
case of Government, Revenue and private land,
as per procedure which shall be prescribed by the
State Government, provided that the District Col-
lector shall not delegate this power to any subordi-
nate officer below the rank of Sub-Divisional Of-
Comment/Suggestion for Western Ghats Au-
A similar clause must apply to all ESAs in the
Western Ghats.
Tourism :-Tourism activities shall be as per a
Tourism Master Plan to be prepared by the De-
partment of Tourism of the State Government in
consultation with the Ministry of Tourism of Gov-
ernment of India and approved by the Ministry
of Environment and Forests. The Tourism Mas-
ter Plan shall also form a component of the Zonal
Master Plan.
The Tourism Master Plan shall be based on a
detailed Carrying Capacity Study of the Eco-Sen-
sitive Zone, which may be carried out by the State
Government and submitted to the Ministry of
Environment and Forests for approval within two
years of the date of this notification. All new tour-
ism activities, developments for tourism or expan-
sion of existing tourism activities shall be permit-
ted only within the parameters of this tourism plan
or carrying capacity study. Till the Tourism Master
Plan is submitted to Ministry of Environment and
Forests for approval, new tourism activities and
developments for tourism or expansion of existing
tourism activities shall be permitted only after a de-
tailed analysis is carried out and approved by the
Monitoring Committee subject to guidelines laid
down by Ministry of Environment and Forests.
Natural Heritage: - The sites of valuable natural
heritage in the zone shall be identified, particularly
rock formations, waterfalls, pools, gorges, groves,
caves, points, walks, rides etc. and plans for their
conservation in their natural setting shall be incor-
porated in the Zonal Master Plan and Sub Zonal
Master Plans. Strict guidelines shall be drawn up
by the State Government to discourage construc-
tion activities at or near these sites including under
the garb of providing tourist facilities. All the gene
pool reserve areas in the zone shall be preserved.
The State Government may draw up proper plans
for their conservation or preservation within one
year from the date of publication of this notifica-
tion. These plans shall form a part of the Zonal
Master Plan and Sub-Zonal Master Plans.
Comment/Suggestion for Western Ghats Au-
For all the ESAs a similar clause mentioning
the different categories of ESAs will be required to
minimize impacts on the ESAs.
Man-made heritage: - Buildings, structures, ar-
tifacts, areas and precincts of historical, architec-
tural, aesthetical, and cultural significance shall
be identified and plans for their conservation, par-
ticularly their exteriors (and wherever deemed ap-
propriate their interiors also) shall be prepared and
incorporated in the Zonal Master Plan and Sub-
Zonal Master Plans within one year from the date
of publication of this notification. Guidelines may
be drawn up by the State Government to regulate
building and other activities in the Zone, particu-
larly in Mahableshwar and Panchgani municipal
limits and in Kshetre Mahableshwar, so that the
special character and distinct ambience of the
towns and the eco sensitive zone is maintained.
Development or construction activity at or
around heritage sites (both natural and man-made)
shall be regulated in accordance with the Draft
Model Regulations for Conservation of Natural
and Man-made Heritage formulated by the Minis-
try of Environment and Forests in 1995 as amended
from time to time and circulated to all State Gov-
ernments and Union territory Administrations.
Comment/Suggestion for Western Ghats Au-
This is a very crucial set of Regulations that
should be reviewed , modified as necessary and
implemented so that natural heritage enrichment
within the ESAs are protected for posterity.
Ground Water: - Extraction of ground water
shall be permitted only for the bona fide agricul-
tural and domestic consumption of the occupier of
the plot. Extraction of ground water for private
industrial/commercial/residential estates/com-
plexes shall require prior permission from the State
Ground Water Board. No sale of ground water
shall be permitted except with prior approval of the
Monitoring Committee.
(j) Use of plastics: - The use of plastics within
the Eco Sensitive Zone shall be regulated by the
Monitoring Committee.
(k) Protection of Hill Slopes: - The Master Plan
shall indicate areas on hill slopes where construc-
tion shall not be permitted.
Comment/Suggestion for Western Ghats Au-
Clearly spelled out rules in this regard must be
provided. The current method of using bull dozers
to show that the land was flat must be curtailed by
the strictly observing that no heavy machinery can
be used without proper authorisation in the ESAs.
(l) Discharge of effluents: - The discharge of any
untreated effluent is prohibited within the Eco Sen-
sitive Zone. No effluent, either treated or untreat-
ed, shall be permitted to be discharged into water
body/s and water source/s within the zone.
Comment/Suggestion for Western Ghats Au-
This is of great relevance as new townships have
been permitted within the Western Ghats.
(m) Solid Wastes: - The local authorities shall
draw up plans for the segregation of solid wastes
into biodegradable and non-biodegradable compo-
nents. The biodegradable material may be recycled
preferably through composting or vermiculture;
the inorganic material may be disposed of at envi-
ronmentally acceptable locations. It is clarified that
the term solid wastes include domestic, industrial,
commercial and garden wastes.
3 (a) The Government of India shall constitute a
High Level Monitoring Committee to ensure com-
pliance with the provisions of this notification.
Besides the above provisions of the notification,
the monitoring committee shall have the powers
to regulate and control noise pollution within the
Eco sensitive zone. The monitoring committee
shall also have powers to regulate traffic especially
through traffic within the Eco sensitive zone; once
the Master Plan is approved by the Ministry of
Environment and Forests in Government of India
such regulation shall be in conformity with the pro-
visions of the Master Plan. The monitoring com-
mittee shall include representative(s) of the Minis-
try of Environment and Forests, Central pollution
Control Board and at least two representatives of
non-government organisations working in the field
of environment (including heritage conservation)
(to be nominated by the Ministry of Environment
and Forests, Government of India). The member-
ship of the committee including Chairman shall
not exceed ten.
(b) It shall be the duty of the Monitoring Com-
mittee to file complaints under section 19 of the
Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 if offences un-
der the said Act come to its notice.
(c) The Committee or any officer or member
of the Monitoring Committee authorised by the
Committee shall be authorised to file complaints
under the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986.
Comment/Suggestion for Western Ghats Au-
Similar powers should be provided to the West-
ern Ghats Authority to be able to transparently
protect the selected and prioritized ESAs
4. In exercise of the powers conferred by sub-
section (3) of section 3 of the Environment (Pro-
tection) Act, 1986, read with section 23 of the said
Act, the Ministry of Environment and Forests,
Government of India empowers the Urban Devel-
opment Department, Government of Maharash-
tra and the High Level Monitoring Committee to
discharge the functions specifically enumerated
in this notification and to do all things incidental
thereto, (except the functions as are required to be
performed by the Central Government under the
provisions of the Environment Impact Assessment
notification of 27th January, 1994 as amended
from time to time).
Provided that in respect of functions delegated
under this notification, an appeal from any order
shall lie to the Ministry of Environment and For-
[File No. J-20011/7/98/IA-III]
Dr. V. Rajagopalan, Jt. Secy.
Urban Development Department
Bombay the 29th April 1983
Maharashtra Regional and Town Planning
Act, 1966. -No. TPS. 1982/4507 (a)-UD 7: In ex-
cersise of powers conferred by sub-section (1) of
Section (3) of Maharashtra Regional and Town
Planning Act, 1966 (Maharashtra XXXVII of
1966) (herinafter referred to as the said act), to
Government of Maharashtra, hereby establishes a
region for the purpose of the said Act to be named
as the Mahableshwar Panchgani Region which
shall include the entire area within the boundaries
of Mahableshwar Tehsil and villages of
(1) Bondarwadi
(2) Bhuteghar
(3) Danwali
(4) Taloshi
(5) Umbri
Of Jaoli Tehsil of Satara District in the
Maharashtra State. A Copy of the plan showing
boundaries of Mahableshwar Panchgani Region
showing the area included as aforesaid is available
for inspection at offices of the following officers
(1) The Director of Town Planning, Ma-
harastra State, Pune
(2) The Collector of Satara
(3) The Tahasildars of Mahableshwar
and Jhaoli
(4) The Municipal Council, Mahablesh-
(5) The Municipal Council, Panchgani
(6) The Assistant Director of Town Plan-
ning, Satara
By Order and in the Name of the Governor of
Sd/-R.B. DONALD, Dy. Secy.
A. Area of Mahableshwar Panchgani Region
= 237.28sq. kms
B. Of the above
(1) Mahableshwar Municipal Area
= 19.55 sq. kms
(2) Panchgani Municipal Area
= 6.16 sq. kms
(3) Gaothans outside Municipal limits
= 0.95 sq. kms
C. Residential Zone outside Municipal limits
= 1.66 sq. kms
D. Forest Zone
= 123.96 sq. kms
E. Green Zone
= 83.72 sq. kms
Comment/Suggestion for Western Ghats Au-
Each ESA category will require careful demar-
cation with a notification by the concerned State
The Government of Maharashtra has created a
schedule for developing Special townships in the
area under Pune regional Plan. The proposal was
first suggested in 2002. This was finalized in 2004.
The area requirements were as follows:
Area Requirement: Any suitable area preferably
vacant having sufficiently wide means of access
not less than 18m wide can be identified for the
purpose of development as special township.
Comment/ Suggestions for Western Ghats Au-
There is no definition of the word suitable. Ar-
eas that contain high biological values and are eco-
logically fragile are NOT suitable for township de-
velopment. Thus most of the western ghats are not
suitable for developing such townships.
The area under the special township shall not
be less than 40 ha (100 acres0 at one place, which
shall not include the area under forest, water bod-
ies. Like river, creek canal, reservoirs, lands falling
within the belt of 100 mt from the HFL of major
lakes, dams and its surrounding areas, lands in the
command area of irrigation project, land falling
within the belt of 200 mt from the historical monu-
ments and places of archeological importance,
Archeological monuments, Heritage precincts,
proposed industrial zone, gaothan areas or con-
gested areas, truck terminus specially earmarked
on regional plan, wildlife corridors and biosphere
Comment/ Suggestions for Western Ghats Au-
The two townships at Sahara and Lavasa have
tracts of forest even though they may not be noti-
fied as Reserve Forest. Any land having a signifi-
cant tree cover and even degraded scrubland capa-
ble of being restored to a natural forest ecosystem
aught to be treated as forest and township develop-
ment in such areas must be banned. Both the town-
ships have been developed in the catchment areas
of dams.
However on such notified townships no develop-
ment zone for such special township may include
private land under Hill tops and Hill slopes zones
in Pune Metropolitan Region as well as Hill tops
and hill slopes outside Pune Metropolitan Region,
whether earmarked on Regional Plan or not and
afforestation zones.
Comment/ Suggestions for Western Ghats Au-
Both Lavasa and Sahara include hill slopes which
were covered in natural vegetation and/or Kumri
cultivation before being converted into townships.
The area of lands in such Hill Tops and hill
slopes zones and afforestation zones shall be maxi-
mum 40% of the gross area and such area shall be
included in part of 50% area to be kept permanent-
ly open where no development activity shall be per-
missible under such townships. The said areas shall
be thickly developed for tree plantation as per the
norms specified above. However, for the purpose
of calculation of PSI, such areas shall be excluded.
Comment/ Suggestions for Western Ghats Au-
Plantations are not a substitute for highly diverse
natural vegetations which covers there fragile hill
slopes. This has been destroyed during the develop-
ment of these townships.
1.4 Environment: The development contemplat-
ed in townships shall not cause damage to ecology,
Comment/ Suggestions for Western Ghats Au-
The development has destroyed ecology of the
region without a shadow of doubt.
Environmental clearance shall be obtained from
the Ministry of Environment and Forest, Gov-
ernment of India as per directions issued by the
MOEFs notification dated 7th July 2004. The
township shall provide at least 20% of the total
area as park/ garden/ playground as mentioned in
4(f) below , with proper landscaping and open uses
designated in the Township shall be duly developed
by owner/ developer. The amenity shall be open to
general public free of cost.
Eco-friendly amenities like solar water heating
for the township shall be mandatory.
2. Special Concessions:
(a) N.A. Permission: Non-agriculture permission
will be automatic. As soon as the scheme is noti-
fied, lands notified under Special Township area as
per 1.2 will be deemed to have been converted into
non-agriculture and no separate permission is re-
quired. Non-agricultural assessment however will
commence from the date of sanction of schemed
as per regulation no 6(c).
(b) Stamp Duty: The stamp duty rates applicable
in Notified Special Township area shall be 50% of
prevailing rates of the Mumbai Stamp Act.
(c) Grant of Government Land: Any Govern-
ment land failing under townships area shall be
leased out to the developer.
(d) Relaxation from Mumbai Tenancy and Agri-
culture Land Act: The condition that only the agri-
culturist will be eligible to buy the agriculture land
shall not be applicable in special township area.
(e) Ceiling of agriculture land: There shall be no
ceiling limit for holding agriculture land to be pur-
chased by the owner/ developer for such project.
(f) Exemption from Urban Land (Ceiling and
Regulation) Act, 1976: Special Township Projects
will be exempted from the purview of Urban Lend
( Ceiling and Regulation) Act , 1976.
(g) Scrutiny Fee: A Special Township Project
shall be partially exempted from payment of scru-
tiny fee being levied by the Collector / Planning
Authority for processing the development proposal
on certain terms and conditions as may be decided
by the Collector/ Planning Authority.
Comment/Suggestion for Western Ghats Au-
The amount of relaxation provided for these
townships to be developed in ecologically fragile
lands having enormous biological importance has
amounted to a violation of good principles of land
management. The seven relaxations indicate that
there is a vested interest in creating these townships
with complete disregard for norms of good land
use policies as set out in 1.1 of this document itself.
Government of India
Ministry of Water Resources
New Delhi
April, 2002
Institutional Mechanism
4.1 With a view to give effect to the planning,
development and management of the water re-
sources on a hydrological unit basis, along with a
multi-sectoral, multi-disciplinary and participatory
approach as well as integrating quality, quantity
and the environmental aspects, the existing insti-
tutions at various levels under the water resources
sector will have to be appropriately reoriented /
reorganised and even created, wherever necessary.
As maintenance of water resource schemes is un-
der non-plan budget, it is generally being neglected.
The institutional arrangements should be such that
this vital aspect is given importance equal or even
more than that of new constructions.
Comment/ Suggestions for Western Ghats Au-
The suggested institutional mechanism in the
National Water Policy2002 has been consistently
disregarded in the Western Ghats by developing
townships, roads etc.
4.2 Appropriate river basin organisations should
be established for the planned development and
management of a river basin as a whole or sub-ba-
sin s, wherever necessary. Special multi-disciplin-
ary units should be set up to prepare comprehen-
sive plans taking into account not only the needs of
irrigation but also harmonising various other water
uses, so that the available water resources are deter-
mined and put to optimum use having regard to ex-
isting agreements or awards of Tribunals under the
relevant laws. The scope and powers of the river
basin organisations shall be decided by the basin
states themselves.
Comment/ Suggestions for Western Ghats Au-
River basin management for tributaries of the
rivers in the Western Ghats has been neglected.
May 2008
Ministry of Environment and Forests has been
implementing the National Lake Conservation
Plan (NLCP) since 2001 for conservation and
management of polluted and degraded lakes in
urban and semi-urban areas. The major objectives
of NLCP include encouraging and assisting state
Governments for sustainable management and
conservation of lakes.
Comment/ Suggestions for Western Ghats Au-
The lakes and backwaters in the Western Ghats
have been seriously neglected. These are corridors
for preserving biological diversity and the defores-
tation due to housing development, urbanization,
and road construction has seriously impacted the
longterm viability. The National Lake Conserva-
tion Pan has NOT been adhered in the lakes of this
Lakes being major sources of accessible fresh
water, require well planned, sustainable and scien-
tific efforts to prevent their degradation and ulti-
mate death.
NLCP has attempted to learn from its experi-
ence in the field for making improvements in the
existing system of project formulation and imple-
mentation. This document attempts to help the
proponents in proper prioritization of lakes based
on scientific selection criteria. It lays down guide-
lines for preparation of detailed project reports
and focuses upon the responsibilities of the State
Governments to work in close partnership with the
Government of India in protection, conservation
and sustainable management of lakes. It is hoped
that State Government will find the revised guide-
lines useful. Their committed implementation will
immensely improve the prospects for protection
and conservation of lakes.
The preparation of these guidelines is the result
of excellent team work. I would like to acknowl-
edge the contributions made by Dr. M. Sengupta,
Advisor, Dr. (Mrs.) R. Dalwani, Director and Shri
S. K. Srivastava, Deputy Director, NRCD (MoEF)
who have worked with great dedication and devo-
tion in preparation of this document.
Additional Secretary & Project Director
Prevention of pollution from point sources by
intercepting, diverting and treating the pollution
loads entering the lake. The interception and diver-
sion works may include sewerage & sewage treat-
ment for the entire lake catchment area.
(i) In situ measures of lake cleaning such as de-
silting, de-weeding, bioremediation,
aeration, bio-manipulation, nutrient reduction,
withdrawal of anoxic hypolimnion, constructed
wetland approach or any other successfully tested
eco-technologies etc depending upon the site con-
Comment/ Suggestions for Western Ghats Au-
The areas where townships have been developed
are unsuitable as they are potential impacts on the
ecological integrity of the lakes.
(ii) Catchment area treatment which may in-
clude afforestation, storm water drainage, silt traps
Comment/ Suggestions for Western Ghats Au-
These are catchments which have been further
impacted by developing roads and urban develop-
(iii) Strengthening of bund, lake fencing, shore-
line development etc.
1 Unique fresh water ecosystems shall cover
lakes that are unique entities of incomparable val-
ues and need to be preserved & conserved e.g. high
altitude lakes, Lonar lake Maharashtra etc.
Comment/ Suggestions for Western Ghats Au-
All the lakes and their catchments in the West-
ern Ghats under this category of unique entities as
the valleys have a variety of forest systems and en-
demic species.
(iv) Lake front eco-development including pub-
lic interface.
(v) Solid waste management & provision of dho-
bi ghats is generally not covered under NLCP.
(vi) Prevention of pollution from non-point
sources by providing low cost sanitation.
(vii) Public awareness and public participation.
Comment/ Suggestions for Western Ghats Au-
No public awareness or participatory manage-
ment has been done. Instead there are sites which
are to be developed into urban settings without any
regard for the ecology of this series of lakes within
the Ghats.
(viii) Capacity building, training and research in
the area of Lake Conservation.
Comment/ Suggestions for Western Ghats Au-
No such capacity building has been carried out.
(ix) Any other activity depending upon location
specific requirements.
4.1 While the causes of degradation of lakes are
many, in view of the limited resources available, it
is not possible to take up all degraded lakes for con-
servation under NLCP. It is, therefore, necessary to
prioritize lakes along with the catchments, where
conservation programmes need to be taken up first.
Comment/ Suggestions for Western Ghats Au-
Lakes of the Western Ghats must be categorized
as being the first to be prioritized to maintain their
ecological integrity. Lakes under the TATA Power
company have a large number of Mahaseer which
is highly endangered.
4.2 In order to identify polluted and degraded
lakes across the country, a study was carried out
by the Ministry at the instance of Planning Com-
mission, vide which 62 lakes were identified across
the country for conservation. This list was sent to
all State Governments for amendment and finalisa-
tion keeping in view the state priority and the jus-
tification for their inclusion in the priority list. The
state priority and justification for such a selection
needs to be a part of the proposal for consideration
under NLCP. In view of the prevailing dynamic
situation, states may revise the priority list at an
interval of 5 years covering different geographic re-
gions of
The Lakes & Wetlands are presently not covered
by any specific legal statute but several legislations
enacted till date have relevance & provisions for
conservation of lakes. Some of these are:
The Forest Conservation Act, 1980, The Wild-
life Act, 1972, The Water (Prevention & Control
of Pollution) Act, 1974, and the Environment
(Protection) Act, 1986. Besides these, some of the
States have individual State level legislations for
protection & conservation of their lakes & water
bodies. The National Environment Policy (NEP),
2006 also seeks for setting up of a legally enforce-
able regulatory mechanism for lakes & wetlands to
prevent their degradation and enhance their con-
servation. Till any specific regulatory framework
for lakes & wetlands is formulated, the Lake Con-
servation may be covered under the provisions of
existing Central and State Legislations (Box.2)
Comment/ Suggestions for Western Ghats Au-
Even though these legal provisions exist the
catchments of lakes in the Western Ghats have
been persistently violated.
Existing legal provisions
1. The Water (Prevention & Control of Pollu-
tion) Act, 1974 as amended deals comprehensively
with water issues. It empowers the Government
to maintain the wholesomeness of National Wa-
ter Bodies. The Act also provides for prohibition
on use of stream (includes inland water whether
natural & artificial) or well for disposal of pollut-
ing matter etc. It enables the Government through
Central & State Pollution Control Boards to pre-
scribe standards and has provisions for monitoring
& compliance and penal provisions against the vio-
lators of the Act.
2. The Environment (Protection) Act, 1986
defines the power of the Central Government to
take measures to protect and improve environment
which includes water, air and land and the inter re-
lationship which exists among and between water,
air and land and human beings, other living crea-
tures, plants, micro organisms and property.
Comment/ Suggestions for Western Ghats Au-
The EPA has been violated in spirit by a series
of development activities within the catchments
of the Western Ghats. This includes provisions for
developing bridges across the ecologically sensitive
Mulshi Lake to facilitate more traffic to the new
township of Lavasa.
The National Environment Policy (NEP), 2006,
recognises the ecological services rendered by the
water bodies like lakes & wetlands. The NEP states
that wetlands including lakes are under threat from
drainage and conversion for agriculture & human
settlements besides pollution. The reduction in eco-
nomic value of their environmental services due to
pollution, as well as the health costs of the pollu-
tion itself, are not taken into account while using
them as a waste dump. The NEP identifies an Ac-
tion Plan for these water bodies which importantly
include formulation of conservation & prudent use
strategies, integration of wetland and lake conser-
vation into sectoral development plans for poverty
alleviation and livelihood improvement, formula-
tion of eco-tourism strategies prove multi stake-
holders partnership and above all setting up of a
legally enforceable regulatory mechanism for these
water bodies.
Comment/ Suggestions for Western Ghats Au-
Conversion for agriculture and more importantly
human settlements (special townships) has serious
long-term implications and violates the provisions
of the NEP(2006).
he ESAs in the Western Ghat are expected
to minimize further environmental degra-
dation, project ecological and biological as-
settes and preserve social justice.
While permitting sustainable development
trends in the Ghats. This can only be achieved by
having different sets of norms for each ESA cate-
gory depending on a combination of their ecologi-
cal value, threat levels and conservation status.
The issues to be considered such as land use, bio-
diversity, water, forest which are all to be concerned
within the three pillars of unsustainable or sustain-
able use under an umbrella of good governance.
One of the key concerns is the societal concerns
where poverty has been a major factor in unsus-
tainability of the region. Added to this is the stress
induced by an increase in inequity which deters
the quality of life of local citizens. They now see
Lavasa and Sahara as a coveted way of life. They
have sold their land, been deprived of their tradi-
tional source of livelihood their land, and now
feel deprived. They see their forests lands degrad-
ed by mining, roads, new townships, new tourists
centers, etc., all of which add to a longterm loss in
their quality of life. The cash they received for the
sale of their lands was frequently too small and has
been filtered away.
The economic growth in the region has been
through only a fraction of what has gone out
through unsustainable development at the local
While the issues related to the unsustainability
of current regional development strategies in the
Western Ghat is well known to ecologists and so-
cial scientists as well as government line agencies
and business, it is not clear to local people. Few at-
tempts have been made to bridge this gap in knowl-
edge. Examples include BVIEER school environ-
ment program in the Mawal and Mulshi Talukas
done a few years ago through funding from Tata
Power Company. Several posters, CD ROMS, and
other educational material have been developed by
NGOs and Government agencies which have had
a limited use in the region itself.
Much more needs to be done for local pub-
lic awareness through local schools and colleges
on the ecology fragility and need for sustainable
knowledge based initiatives in the region which
should become a primary focus for the Western
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