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.
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.
Dr Madhav Gadgil
Centre for Ecological Sciences
Indian Institute of Science
Bangalore 560012, India
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.
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
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.