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Forest landscapes of the southern western Ghats, India

B.R. Ramesh
Rajan Gurukkal


B.R. Ramesh et Rajan Gurukkal

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1The Western Ghats being one of the mega centres of biodiversity is also a water sink supporting several river systems, which are the lifelines of densely populated southern part of the Indian Peninsula. Thickly wooded catchments of these rivers with ample moisture are being subjected to heavy anthropogenic pressures. This has resulted in not only the degradation and loss of forests but also soil erosion and silting up of rivers and reservoirs. The State Department of Forest, the principal agency in charge of the management of forests, has been adopting measures of protection and conservation of the forests of Western Ghats since several decades, but with limited success that it owes to obsolescence. There have been efforts to generate scientific inputs to update the methods of forest management, thanks to the research efforts of several research institutions. Nonetheless, the national experience is that the forest management in the country has always been lagging behind in adopting ecologically rationalised strategies of protection and conservation.

2The French Institute of Pondicherry (FIP) has been undertaking several scientific studies of forests in the southern states particularly, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala, some of them as occasioned by projects of the Forest Department itself. FIP has in the process generated considerable knowledge about the biodiversity richness of the forests and their ecological services. Some of the outputs like vegetation maps, atlas on distribution of endemic trees, plant identification tools and several research articles and reports have rendered the latest scientific knowledge plausible as basis for evolving appropriate conservation strategies for the Forest Department.

3The World Bank project, “forest landscape analysis of the Western Ghats” carried out for the Kerala Forest Department (KFD) in collaboration with School of Social Sciences, Mahatma Gandhi University, took us beyond our previous studies in terms of objectives, scope and methodological perspectives. A modified and extended version of the project report on the landscape management, the present book seeks to provide scientific insights of landscape perspective that signifies a comprehensive ecological approach to biodiversity conservation and an effective planning strategy for natural resources management. Interdisciplinary in approach, the landscape perspective further making headway into the forest – people interface, a site where the natural as well as the social converged and intersected, the book raises seminal questions concerning ecology on the one hand human ecology on the other. Drawing closer to the complex nature of socio-economic relations and ecological processes our standpoint of ecological critique and critical strategies of protection change substantially. The methodology adopted in the book for delineating natural forest landscapes, analysis of biological and human ecological matrix and strategic landscape management is hoped to serve as a guideline to a wider clientele of forest managers as well as forestry students. The scientific underpinnings of landscape analysis and socioeconomic issues dealt in different chapters of the book would also benefit landscape ecologists, social scientists and policy makers.

4This landscape study would not have been possible with out the support of KFD. We express our sincere gratitude particularly to senior forest officers like Mr. K. Balachandran Thambi, Mr.V. Gopinathan, Dr. Brandon S. Coorie, Mr. Winston S. Suiting and Mr. Om Prakash Kaler for their guidance from the forester’s perspective. For the field level support and sharing information about forest management, we are grateful to the local officers viz Mr. Shrawan Kumar Verma, Dr. Induchoodan, Mr. M.I. Vargeese, Mr. Murali, Mr. V.J. George, Mr. John Augustine Nirmal and Mr.Cherian Kunju.

5Dr. J. P Muller, Director of French Institute is the main source of inspiration to make this book possible. We appreciate our colleagues especially Mr. S. Ramalingam, Dr. N. Ayyappan, Dr. Santoshgouda Patil, Mr. Champak Reddy and N. Barathan for their valuable help during the fieldwork or at various stages of completion of the book.

6Above all we would like to express our immense gratitude to our Adivasi companions who helped us in a multitude of ways along with, watchers of the Forest Department during our extended field visits to remote forest and often challenging terrains at inhospitable weather conditions. But for their compassion and assistance this travails of landscape would not have arrived destination.

7Last but not the least we thank all the contributors of the book whose chapters embodying original research findings make the book matter.

© Institut Français de Pondichéry, 2007

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