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Ecosystem Profile: Western Ghats & Sri Lanka
The central and state governments (in India) provide the bulk of support for investments in biodiversity conservation-related activities in the Western Ghats. Multilateral and bilateral donor agencies, research institutes as well as international conservation NGOs also provide substantial support. The funds from multi-lateral donors are largely channeled through the government. Universities and research institutes obtain grants from both governmental agencies and international organizations. Domestic NGOs are primarily funded by international NGOs as well as bilateral and multilateral donor agencies. Information on these current investments is presented below, including projects undertaken in the region since 1997 to ongoing projects.
The Indian government is the largest investor in conservation related activities in the Western Ghats. The Planning Commission and the MoEF are the main funding sources within the central government. At the state level, the state planning boards and commissions and the state forest departments are the main agencies investing in conservation-related activities. State forest departments are vested with the task of administration and management of forests, including protected areas and are charged with the tasks of protection and law enforcement within forest areas through the prevention, detection, investigation and prosecution of all forest and wildlife offences. Other agencies such as the Public Works, Electricity, Irrigation, Rural Development, Tribal Welfare, and Revenue Departments own significant amounts of land within the hotspot but are not mandated to work towards biodiversity conservation.
Among the Central government agencies, the MoEF, which allocated Rs 5945 crores (approx. $1.3 billion) for the tenth five-year plan (2002-2007) for spending nationwide, is the largest spender. In addition to receiving money from the government of India, the MoEF also receives grants from various external aid organizations.
The MoEF serves as a source of funds to numerous institutions as well as non- governmental organizations. It has sanctioned more than 100 projects in the last 10 years in the Western Ghats region. The Eastern and Western Ghats Program, functioning through the MoEF, has a total budget of about $1 million per year.
Other Central Government Departments
The Department of Science and Technology and the Department of Biotechnology spend approximately $100,000 and $60,000 per year respectively for conservation research in the Western Ghats.
State Forest Departments
The main activities of the State Forest Departments are management of the forests, conservation of wildlife, reforestation of degraded forests, afforestation of barren areas, social forestry, soil conservation by afforestation, protection of forest from pilferage, meeting demands of the local population for timber, firewood and NTFPs from Forest Department lands. Karnataka State Forest Department (KFD) is presented as a case study to demonstrate the scale and types of investments made by this sector. Approximately 38 percent of the Western Ghats falls within the state of Karnataka. This state also has the largest proportion (45 percent) of the total protected area in the hotspot. From 2004-2005, KFD’s budget was Rs 19 crore (approx. $4.1 million).
KFD received a grant from the Department for International Development (DFID) U.K. for implementation of the Western Ghats Forestry and Environmental Project. A total expenditure of $45.77 million between 1992 and 2000 was incurred on the project, with expenditure from 1999 - 2003 totaling $6.5 billion. The project aimed to protect and develop ecologically sensitive and biodiversity-rich forests in the Western Ghats districts of Shimoga and Uttara Kannada. Development of degraded forests was to be achieved through natural regeneration coupled with gap planting, involving local people, through a process of joint planning and management. Research training and establishment of GIS, MIS Systems were also important activities of the project.
The India Ecodevelopment Project was implemented across seven protected areas nationwide with assistance from the International Development Agency and GEF, from 1996 - 2004. Two of these protected areas, Rajiv Gandhi National Park in Karnataka and Periyar Tiger Reserve in Kerala, are within the Western Ghats. The main objective of this project was to improve the capacity of Protected Area management to conserve biodiversity. The total project expenditure within the Western Ghats areas throughout the course of the project was $6.63 million.
With a view to ensure focus on conservation of flagship species, the MoEF launched special conservation projects such as Project Tiger and Project Elephant. The total expenditure for Project Tiger in Karnataka, 1997 – 2002, was $2.27 million. The total expenditure for Project Elephant in Karnataka from 1991 to 2006 is Rs 1295.21 lakh (approx. $2.8 million).
With a view to generate greater participation of people in forest regeneration and sustainable use, the MoEF launched a national program in the 1990s called Joint Forest Management (JFM). The focus of this program is to involve village communities and voluntary agencies in regeneration of degraded forests (other than reserved forests and protected areas).
While the mandate of the state forest departments and the scope of their activities are vast, there are some severe limitations to their ability to implement projects on the ground as they were originally envisioned. One problem is that the conservation management objectives of the Forest Department are not clearly formulated and ongoing efforts are rarely monitored. They also suffer from a shortage of field staff: 40-70 percent of posts remain unfilled and existing staff have low morale/motivation as they are poorly equipped in terms of available infrastructure and technical capacity to effectively fulfill their responsibilities. In certain areas, the Forest Department is viewed as being excessively occupied with large ecodevelopment and afforestation schemes (which heavily favor monoculture plantations of exotics), thus neglecting primary park management responsibilities relating to protection. Additionally, a lack of transparency and accountability, in combination with insufficient financial resources, creates a significant constraint to effective implementation of conservation. The active involvement of civil society could greatly improve the forest departments’ ability to monitor and protect biodiversity. However, NGO involvement in field monitoring that leads to information in the public domain on the status of protection and management is largely discouraged. The focus of fresh investment in the biodiversity sector should be on supporting civil society initiatives in biodiversity conservation and monitoring.
Major banks and donors involved in environmental activities in India have included The World Bank Group, GEF, Asian Development Bank, Australian Agency for International Development, Japanese Bank of International Corporation (JBIC), UNDP, Canadian International Development Agency, The Royal Netherlands Embassy, Norwegian Agency for Development Corporation, Swedish International Development Agency, Danish International Development Agency, DFID, U.S. Agency for International Development,, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and Swiss Agency for Development Corporation. The funds from these agencies come in various forms of assistance, including loans, soft loans, credits, and grants.
The nature of external assistance provided by external donor agencies has been constantly changing to accommodate changing priorities and concerns. For example, in recent years, more emphasis has been laid on strengthening institutional set up, governance and participatory processes rather than on infrastructure projects in industries, dams, irrigation and urban development- as was the case in the 1980s.
The World Bank will implement the Biodiversity Conservation and Rural Livelihoods Project, which was approved in August 2006 with a GEF contribution of $11.8 million and a total project budget of $51 million. The project aims to enhance conservation of globally significant biodiversity and ensure its long-term sustainability by promoting participatory conservation mechanisms in biodiversity-rich landscapes. It builds on past participatory conservation successes, including the concluded GEF/IDA Ecodevelopment project by expanding conservation efforts to the landscape level, and integrating rural livelihoods with strengthened protected area management and more biodiversity-friendly development in the surrounding production landscapes. The project includes an explicit component for promoting learning networks, distilling and disseminating lessons learned, and encouraging replication of successful participatory conservation management to other protected areas and biodiversity-rich landscapes elsewhere in India. The project focuses on eight landscape sites in India, and two of these occur in the Western Ghats, overlapping with the Periyar-Agasthyamalai Corridor (7,700 square kilometers) that is proposed as a priority for CEPF investment. This project provides an excellent opportunity for collaboration and complementarity of effort in this small but extremely important corridor.
In the Western Ghats, in addition to its role in the India Ecodevelopment Project, the World Bank invested about $45 million on the Kerala Forestry Project implemented through the IDA, a soft loan affiliate of the Bank, which ran from 1998 to 2003.
The MoEF was given an amount of $986,200 for the preparation of a National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan (NBSAP) from the GEF in 1997/98. The NBSAP was aimed at promoting the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity and was to be developed through a broad-based participatory planning process. Biodiversity Strategy Action plans have been compiled for each state as well as the Western Ghats region.
Projects are regularly funded through the GEF-Small Grants Program, which is implemented by UNDP. Funds totaling $99,281.20 were awarded to a range of biodiversity projects working in the Western Ghats from 1999 – 2006, with an additional $25,842 committed to a project running from 2005 to 2008.
The indicative allocation for biodiversity projects in India as part of the recently authorized fourth phase of GEF is $29.6 million over the next four years. This amount, calculated under the new Resource Allocation Framework for GEF spending, is not guaranteed, but it is a good indication of what is likely to be committed to the Indian government. The actual amount would be applied to priority regions throughout Indian territory, but the Western Ghats is bound to receive a significant fraction. The potential for these funds supporting the conservation work of civil society organizations, however, is likely to be small.
Japan is one of the largest donors to India. JBIC is the official assistance provider, but other development agencies provide a significant part of the aid to the environment sector. In May 2005, JBIC approved two new projects in the Western Ghats. An afforestation project in Tamil Nadu, originally funded from 1996 to 2001 at $107 million, was funded for a second phase, along with the Karnataka Sustainable Forest Management and Biodiversity Conservation Project. The total for these new projects, both scheduled through 2012, is 25,027 million JPY (approx. $213 million).
Research institutions in India play a major role in biodiversity conservation in the country. The interests and thrust areas of the various institutions cover a wide range of issues related to biodiversity conservation, from the surveys of flora and fauna to protection and management and participatory resource management.
Several institutions active in the Western Ghats are supported by the MoEF. A partial list includes the Tropical Botanic Garden And Research Institute, Palode, Kerala; WII, Dehradun; ICFRE, Deharadun; BSI, Calcutta; ZSI, Calcutta; FSI, Deharadun; Center for Ecological Sciences, Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore; KFRI, Peechi, Kerala; SACON, Coimbatore; and BNHS, Mumbai. These institutions are primarily involved in conservation research, training, and documentation activities. Each of these organizations spends approximately $300,000 per year on research and training.
Major universities active in conservation research include UAS, Bangalore; Madurai University, Mangalore University, Mysore University, Mysore and Pune University, Pune; Pondicherry University, Pondicherry; and Calicut University, Calicut.
There are relatively few international NGOs supporting conservation work in the Western Ghats. These include the Ford Foundation, WCS, BirdLife International, and The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. Among these, the Ford Foundation has been one of the largest international donors, though it does not have a specific program targeted to biodiversity conservation.
National and Regional NGOs
Civil society in India plays an important role in the agenda on biodiversity conservation in the country. There are a number of NGOs in the country involved in conservation activities in the Western Ghats region. Many have their own research projects, but most are involved in conservation strategies with respect to the local communities. One of the main areas of civil society involvement is to work with local communities in an attempt to further sustainable utilization of natural resources.
The major NGOs active in the Western Ghats biodiversity hotspot include the Ecological Society, Research and Action in Natural Wealth Administration, Kalpavriksh, Goa Foundation, Botanical Society of Goa, Palni Hills Conservation Council, Asian Nature Conservation Foundation, Keystone Foundation, Foundation for Ecological Research, Advocacy And Learning, Center for Wildlife Studies, Nature Conservation Foundation, ATREE, Foundation for Revitalization of Local Health Traditions (FRLHT), IBCN, Wildcat-C, Wildlife First, Wildlife Trust of India, and Zoo Outreach Organization.
These NGOs are involved in projects ranging from advocacy and education to community-based participatory management and applied research. Total investments made by these NGOs in the Western Ghats range from $3.5 to 4.5 million. Of these, ATREE and FRLHT are the largest contributors, having spent more than $1 million each over the last five years. Approximately 54 percent of the total investments made by NGOs have supported community-based natural resource management programs, 23 percent for research, 13 percent for protection and management of biodiversity and about 10 percent for raising education and awareness levels.
Only a few Indian foundations have made meaningful investments in the Western Ghats region. One of these, the Sir Dorabji Tata Trust, Mumbai, invested Rs 47.6 million (approx. $1.03 million) in biodiversity conservation activities in the Western Ghats from 2005-2006. Other Indian foundations that have invested in the region include the Ratan Tata Trust, Mumbai, and the Sehgal Family Foundation, New Delhi.
The analysis of conservation investments in India reveals several trends. First, overall investments in biodiversity conservation have been relatively small. Second, although conservation investments by governmental agencies, the state forest departments, and the MoEF are large when compared to research institutions and NGOs, much of government investment has been on infrastructure. Third, investments made by NGOs and research institutes play an important role in filling investment gaps in biodiversity conservation research and action. Fourth, there is very little evaluation or monitoring of the effectiveness of these investments both in the government and nongovernmental sectors. Finally, many important issues such as the status, distribution, and monitoring of biodiversity, fragmentation of habitats, drivers of biodiversity change, and societal and scientific responses to these changes are not being adequately addressed.
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