Millennium Ecosystem Assessment
Strengthening Capacity to Manage Ecosystems Sustainably for Human Well-Being

India Local Ecosystem Assessments: Karnataka and Maharashtra of Western Ghats


The assessment concentrates on five clusters of 12 villages located in the states of Karnataka and Maharashtra in the hill range of Western Ghats between 17° - 18°N in latitude and 73° - 74°E in longitude. The five selected village clusters include the following: Mala cluster in Karkala Taluk of Udupi district; Koyyur cluster in Belthangady taluk of Dakshina Kannnada district; Panaje cluster in Puttur taluk of Dakshina Kannnada district; Sashitalu in Mangalore taluk of Dakshina Kannnada district; Bada- Yermal cluster in Udupi taluk of Udupi district.

Lead institutions

Indian Institute of Science, and its Centre for Ecological Sciences, Bangalore: India’s premier scientific research institute with strengths in ecology, remote sensing, water resource management and modeling.

Regional Engineering College, Suratkal: One of India’s leading Engineering colleges with strengths in water resource management.

Other participating institutions include: Nagarika Seva Trust, an NGO, and Ministry of Environment and Forests, the Government of India and High Schools and Junior Colleges in the study localities.

Contact information:

  • Dr Madhav Gadgil
    Centre for Ecological Sciences
    Indian Institute of Science
    Bangalore 560012, India
    Tel: +91-80-3600985
    Fax: +91-80-3601453

Focal issues

There is substantial user demand for this assessment from many different levels ranging from village councils to state and central governmental agencies as well as NGOs. India now has in place a vigorous system of decentralized governance where more and more powers of management of natural resources are being devolved to village councils. These councils are interested in natural resources and ecosystem goods and services assessments. The State governments are encouraging this and the proposed ecosystem assessments would help develop the relevant experience.

Ecosystem services being assessed

Ecosystem services highlighted in this assessment include: use of streams for irrigation, free range grazing of cattle, pollination, recreation, cultural and spiritual satisfaction. Ecosystem bads of interest include: pollutants, exotic invasive weeds, vectors of diseases. Ecosystem disservices of interest include: crop raiding by wild animals. Agriculture, coastal fisheries and collection of non-timber forest produce are the mainstay of the economy of the study sites. Ecosystem goods highlighted in this assessment include: fish, NTFPs, medicinal herbs, leaf litter, shells and sand.

Project outputs

Documentation of common elements in people’s vision of desirable futures, a database about study sites, a library of images, field guides on CD Rom and hard copy, maps delineating ecological habitats, a computerized spatial database to serve as an input for GIS.

Key features of assessment

The Western Ghats is a region with strong local as well as state level demand for ecosystem assessments to feed into planning for the management of natural resources. The local level assessments will be nested within higher level assessments. These local level assessments would provide lessons that would be of great value to the rapidly advancing process of decentralized development planning throughout India.

The localities have been selected to represent the full diversity of environmental and social gradients of this region, which is recognized as one of the world’s important tropical forests biodiversity hot spots. It is a region of high rainfall, with rainfall levels reaching 5000 – 8000 mm per year making the region an area of crucial importance as a sub-continental watershed. As a consequence, all of the major rivers of Peninsular India originate in this region. It is also the region with highest levels of literacy and lowest birth rates in India; as a result the decentralized institutions of governance as well as environment and development NGOs are most active in this part of the world.

Timeframe, budget

Funding contributions come from: the Ministry of Environment and Forests, Government of India in form of a long term grant to the Centre for Ecological Sciences at the Indian Institute of Science and a special grant for the project. The specific grant is for an amount of $ 26 thousand over a 3- year period. The share of the project from the long-term support grant amounts to $ 50 thousand over a 3- year period. In addition part of a grant from the Department of Biotechnology, Government of India provides support to the project to the tune of $ 15 thousand over a 3- year period. Finally, the Ministry of Human Resource Development, Government of India makes a contribution of $ 20 thousand over a 3- year period through its core support to the Indian Institute of Science.