Contradictions in Ecological Conservation and Regional Development: A case study on Wayanad District, Kerala, India

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Submission Summary
The Western Ghats, starting north from Gujarat and stretching south till Tamil Nadu, is home to a wide variety of flora and fauna. The presence of 13 National Parks, 34 Wildlife Sanctuaries, birthplace to many rivers, and recognition by UNESCO as one of the world’s eight most important biodiversity hotspots makes the Western Ghats a highly sensitive and crucial ecological region. The protection of this region and the livelihood of people residing in the region has been in debates since the early 1900s. India's Environment Protection Act 1986, that empowers the union government to prohibit and regulate any kind of development in such sensitive areas, allowed the Government of India (GoI) to control development in the Western Ghats too. Consequently, the protected areas and Highly Ecologically Sensitive Zones (ESZ) of the region are considered as highly restricted and non-developable zones. This paper attempts to study the mixed bag of challenges faced by the region in due course of conserving its environment and following economic growth to support the livelihood of its residents. According to Dudley Seers, the purpose of economic development is to reduce poverty, inequality, and unemployment and as quoted by Amartya Sen, development involves reducing deprivation (a state of extreme poverty) or broadening choice. Here, in this case, the ecologically sensitive areas are protected by the government through different policies and laws, etc., which affects regional development. In the Western Ghats, plans, policies, and programs to control the exploitation of natural resources came into existence from the early 1970s with the Hill areas Development Program, Western Ghats Sub Regional Plans of 1981 and so on which are reviewed in detail to follow thorough policy study. The latest reports on Western Ghats conservation, Dr. Gadgil's Report, and High-Level Working Group on the Western Ghats (HLWG) report, both emphasize on protection by terminating various industrial and commercial activities in the region, which reducing job opportunities and hindering the economic and infrastructure development. The study discusses, Wayanad as a case, being one of the backward districts of Kerala state, to showcase scenarios of “contradictions in ecological conservation and regional development". The study used household surveys and secondary data to examine the existing scenario. The socio-economic and demographic studies conducted in Wayanad showed increasing migration and declining economic activities. The data collected using the primary household surveys also forecasted promising results for the tourism and dairy farming industry that can be a key in the rejuvenation of the regional economy. To make a case, spatial data analysis had been carried out in the ArcGIS platform, and the land suitability analysis was undertaken by overlaying various features inputs. Demarcation of administrative boundaries of ESZs carried out by the HLWG, led by GoI, flouts the idea that nature doesn't follow boundaries. These administrative boundaries restricted even the development of small gram panchayats (village administration) which had the bare minimum presence of forest or any environmentally sensitive area. The study suggests that the delineation of ESZs must be based on land utilization and various socio-physical parameters such as physiography, percentage of sensitive/ tribal population, distance from protected areas, connectivity, existing infrastructure, livelihood dependency, etc. Thus, based on the land suitability analysis carried out, considering the above-mentioned parameters, the developable grids for eco-tourism facilities, dairy farming, and small scale industries were identified. The paper develops a model to improve the local livelihood of an environmentally sensitive region through nature-based responsible tourism, integrated agro-aqua farming, and small scale industries without compromising on the environment and development potential of the region.
Submission ID :
ISO423
Submission Type
Submission Track
2: Ensuring the Economic Diversity and Resilience
Assistant Planner
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IPE Global Limited
Indian Institute of Remote Sensing
Assistant Planner
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IPE Global Limited
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