Economy

Forest wealth depleting fast in Western Ghats

Anil Urs Bangalore May 27 | Updated on November 15, 2017

forest

An expert panel has blamed the increase in commercial plantations for destroying forests, erosion of soil and water bodies in the Western Ghats.

According to a Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel report, which was submitted to the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) by its Chairman, Prof Madhav Gadgil, water guzzling crops and monoculture plantations such as tea, coffee, and cardamom are responsible for depleting forest wealth.

“These crops have aggravated the problem in the region as most farmers have realised this. Environmental groups have also raised concerns and have asked for more sustainable management practices,” it added.

The expert panel said: “Since commodity boards play a major role in agriculture development in the Western Ghats and since they come under the Union Ministry of Commerce, a clear policy direction should be needed to support sustainable agriculture development in this region.”

“To put such a policy change in practice covering the entire Western Ghats, a co-ordinating agency with executive powers is essential. The proposed Western Ghats Ecology Authority will be the best suited one for this task,” panel suggested.

“A great concern is that degradation and contamination of soil and water in the upper reaches of the Western Ghats gets carried downstream leading to the degradation of midlands and coastal regions.”

“Therefore, a policy shift is urgently warranted curtailing the environmentally disastrous practices and switching over to a more sustainable farming approach in the Western Ghats,” report pointed out.

Recommendations

The panel has recommended changes to the current agriculture development in the region, through a policy supporting the environment and integration of various state departments in the region. A separate strategy would be needed for large plantations and small farmers.

The expert panel has suggested a shift from monoculture to polyculture/mixed cropping systems. “The large extent of monoculture plantations such as tea, coffee, and cardamom needs to integrate more indigenous crops, especially food crops and edible fruiting trees best suited to the locality, to help reduce soil erosion, improve water holding capacity of the soil, enhance productivity and, improve economic returns from unit area.” anil.u@thehindu.co.in

Published on May 27, 2012

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