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Forest landscapes of the southern western Ghats, India

B.R. Ramesh
Rajan Gurukkal

Part III. Towards a Paradigm Shift: Rethinking Strategies of Landscape Management

10. Strategies and Actions-II: Dealing with the Constraints

P.V. Karunakaran, M. Balasubrahmanian, M. Amruth, Rajan Gurukkal et B.R. Ramesh

Texte intégral

1Conservation of terrestrial biodiversity is intimately related to the effective management of forest landscapes. Causes (or constraints) of biodiversity loss may be direct or indirect. Direct constraints are human activities that impair the immediate structural-functional components of forest landscapes, while the indirect constraints fuel a chain of processes culminating in the habitat loss. Growing list of rare, endangered and threatened species indicates constraints felt in the implementation of conservation programs. Here the attempt is to understand the intricacies of constraints in drawing effective strategies and action plans for the conservation of ecological values in the landscape units.

Threat scape analysis

2Threat is a logistical, social or natural constraint felt in achieving the desired output in the management of forests. Identification of threats was done by conducting focus group discussions with forest administrative staff in the landscape units. Thirty-two types of threats (management issues) were identified in the landscape based on their experiences. (Table 10.1).

3The overall analysis of management constraints indicates that factors such as fire, collection of firewood, poaching, invasion of exotic weeds and cattle grazing are the most predominant threats, which occurred in more than 75 % of ranges (Table 10.1). Human-wildlife conflict, collection of small poles, illicit brewing, tree felling, fishing and ganja cultivation occurred in 50 to 75 % of the ranges. The remaining threats occurred only in less than 50 % of forest ranges.

Table 10.1 Range wise occurrence of different threats (management issues) in the landscape units

Table 10.1 Range wise occurrence of different threats (management issues) in the landscape units

4The overall analysis of management constraints indicates that factors such as fire, collection of firewood, poaching, invasion of exotic weeds and cattle grazing are the most predominant threats, which occurred in more than 75 % of ranges (Table 10.1). Human-wildlife conflict, collection of small poles, illicit brewing, tree felling, fishing and ganja cultivation occurred in 50 to 75 % of the ranges. The remaining threats occurred only in less than 50 % of forest ranges.

5Threats such as encroachments, sand mining, public transport through forests, permits and rights to industries and local people, pilgrimage, lack of infrastructure and communication facilities were reported only from the territorial divisions. The proximity of human habitation and level of dependence for resources may be attributed to the occurrence of more livelihood related threats in the lower slopes of the landscape units. Construction of a new irrigation canal running parallel to Periyar River in Malayattoor division divides the forest into two, impeding the free movement of animals is a particular threat.

6The ranking of threats based on one to one comparison during the interview of forest officers indicated that fire, invasion of weeds, cattle grazing, poaching and illicit distillation are high priority management problems. Sand mining, thatching grass collection, pole collection, tree felling and over exploitation of resources are predominant in LU13. Leases given to different agencies, permits and rights to local people and political interference also reported in some ranges.

7The overall scenario of threats indicated that in most divisions main threats are anthropogenic in nature, which highlights the institutional weakness/failures of the PFM initiatives. Although these initiatives are further strengthened with apex bodies such as Forest Development Agencies (FDA) with more financial autonomy, the results are yet to be visible.

Strategies and actions for mitigating the threats


8The role of fire in the forest ecosystem is a well-debated topic. Considering the climatic, topography and ecological particularities of Kerala, it is important to accept the fact that damages due to fire are more severe and tangible than the benefits due to it. Frequent and repeated forest fire degrades forests and inflicts changes in water cycles, soil fertility and biodiversity. There is growing evidence to show that frequent fire in forests contributes to the build-up of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and thereby causing global warming and the climatic change.

9Understanding the effect of fire on forest ecosystem is important for its management. Frequent fire alter the structure and composition of forests, by opening up forests to the invasive and fast-colonizing exotic species. Based on the level of impact, the forest fires can be classified into three types viz. sub-soil, ground level and crown fires. Frequent fires result in mortality of trees and burning of the fallen wood and branches, which spreads the heat into the soil through the root systems. Such sub-soil fire and heat, affects the water table, soil fertility, micro flora and fauna that exist on the ground. The ground fire, which is caused due to heavy fuel load, especially due to the leaf litter and dried tall grasses, kills herbaceous layer, regeneration and grounddwelling organisms including many amphibians, reptiles, insects and smaller mammals. Ground fires are always intensified due to the fuel load produced by the exotic weeds. Each ground fire also exposes the soil leading to severe erosion and downstream silting. Crown fires affect the canopy dwelling organisms including epiphytes.

10Fire burns faster uphill than downhill due to convection currents. It is also because the fire preheats and dries out fuels in front of the flames burning uphill, making them easier to ignite. Fire spread faster on the steeper slopes and easily jump over the narrow breaks. Slope aspect also plays a major role in deciding the intensity and spread of fire. The fire on the south and west facing slopes exposed to sun burns hotter because the sun dries the fuels more rapidly there.

11The information provided by the forest department indicates that fire occurs in all types of forests including the evergreen but more frequently in deciduous forests. Tracing fire lines with stipulated width, appointing fire gangs and engaging firewatchers seasonally are some of the fire control measures adopted by the forest department. The participatory fire management system that is being implemented by the department in some locations, seems to be effective. However, fire continues to be one of the major threats in the selected landscape units.

12In the present study, potential land cover categories considered for delineating fire zone are moist deciduous woodlands, bamboo brakes, reed patches, teak plantations and grasslands (Figure 10.1). The regions surrounding the settlements inside the forests with one-kilometer buffer are also considered as the fire prone zone. Based on the above criteria, the potential fire prone vegetation identified has a total extent of 870.12 km2. The major strategies for fire control are the following:

  • Conduct research on fire patterns, its ecological impacts, and fuel inventory

  • Prepare fire behaviour models, fire risk indicators and maps.

  • Make use of the real-time satellite information on fire provided by Indian Space Research Organization to carryout detailed analysis of the fire frequencies, vegetation, etc. along with the field-level assessment.

  • Develop an integrated fire management programme which include:

    1. community sensitization against fire;

    2. fire prevention by means of fire lines;

    3. fire pre-suppression (collection of fire intelligence, equipments, communication, water supply, training to fire fighters);

    4. early burning;

    5. law enforcement and incentive systems;

    6. training, extension and public awareness programmes;

    7. compost processing from weeds in fire prone areas so that it would benefit the livelihood of locals as well as reduce the fuel load.

  • Erect fire watchtowers with communication system in strategic locations and construct a good network of paths and roads (which can also be used as fire lines) for quick and easy movement of personnel and fire-fighting equipments.

Figure 10.1 Distribution of fire prone vegetation in the LUs

Illicit activities

13Prevalent illegal activities in side the landscape are grazing, poaching, ganja cultivation, tree felling, sand mining, illicit distillation of arrack, sandal wood smuggling, fishing, fire wood collection, illegal removal of NWFP, collection of poles and encroachments. Most of the administrative divisions in the landscape units are fraught with these activities. One of the reasons is paucity of staff. Posting of untrained staff at vulnerable localities results in delayed and ineffective action. It is also noted that the work culture and the administrative environment are not supportive to the initiatives of protective staff. Moreover, local people are rarely taken into confidence in monitoring the illicit activities. If these activities are continuing despite the discouragements there are two sources for their prevalence. The first is failure of the monitoring and enforcement, and the second is sociological. The first will have to be tackled at the departmental level; and the second at the local community level. Presently there are possibilities for combining these two options through PFM. Adopting participatory approaches in management need not necessarily mean outright rejection of law enforcement, instead these should be considered as mutually complementary aspects of administration.

14Some of the common strategies for controlling the illegal activities are listed below.

  • Attempts to develop in-depth understanding of the everyday management issues are lacking at the department level. There is no authoritative documentation on the offences prevalent in the forests and the sociological reasons of their existence. Any such initiative will be a valuable starting point in addressing these problems more effectively.

  • A primary requirement in tackling the offences is identification of offence prone localities. So a precise documentation on the offence prone localities and deployment of manpower are immediate prerequisite in reducing forest offences.

  • Collaborate with the police department in intelligence gathering on habitual offenders. This is especially relevant in tracking organised criminal groups in wildlife trafficking, ganja cultivation, sandalwood smuggling, poaching etc. Maintenance of a computerised online database of such criminals and groups at the state level may prove extremely helpful. Intelligence gathering will have to be organised in sophisticated manner with high professionalism.

  • Organisational environment prevalent in the forest department is not conducive for encouraging any innovation in enforcement. More attractive incentive and promotion packages have to be implemented.

  • Legal procedures of prosecution demand considerable will power and patience of the forest staff associated with charge-sheeting the case. A separate legal assistance cell will have to be set up at the divisional level to extent legal assistance to the departmental staff in preparation of investigation reports and presentation of cases in courts.

  • The VSS and popular bodies can be crucial source of information on the offenders. Similarly joint patrolling parties can be constituted for closer monitoring of the localities frequented with offences.

  • Tackling offences that have deeper sociological roots such as, forest fire, illegal removal of timber and forest produces, illegal brewing of country liquor etc. can be made efficient by joining hands with social organisations. Sensitisation of the local people is an immediate prerequisite to address such issues at the local level.

  • Departmental infrastructure and logistical support will have to be improved considerably. Appointment of sufficient number of trained force will have to be supplemented by improved means for communication and self defence. Better modes of public relation and participatory outlook will have to be cultivated.

  • Develop a common platform for integrating the multiple stakeholder interests by fostering a sense of shared responsibility in forest management. Constituting empowered committees with representatives from various stakeholders would be an efficient means for resolving various problems at the divisional level.

  • Persistence of illegal resource extraction (such as fuel wood, fodder, poles, NWFP etc.) may be indicative of the existence of socially deserving user groups. It is important to realise futility of attempts to stop such dependency by policing. Contrarily, it may be more worthwhile to meet such demands in a controlled manner, or arrange for alternative sources of such resources through VSS.

15The specific features of the illegal activities and measures of control unique to the problem are discussed under separate headings below.

Cattle grazing

16Almost all the human settlements within as well as on the periphery of the landscape units have livestock and these mostly graze in the forests. Grazing by domestic livestock in the forests not only removes the biomass and competes with wild herbivores but it also spreads contagious diseases to wild animals. Intensive grazing on the preferred fodder species leads to changes the species composition of natural vegetation. Cattle grazing induce invasion of weeds. Livestock contribute to exotic weed invasions by transporting the seeds on them and create trampled patches of bare soils that act as seedbeds of weeds.

17The intensity of grazing is comparatively more in the lower reaches of LU13 since it is proximate to human habitations. Management efforts to control grazing have been largely ineffective. Vaccination of cattle to prevent dispersal of diseases is not adequately done in most of the divisions and moreover the provision is made only in and around (5 km radius) of Protected Areas alone. Lack of coordination between forest department and others (Tribal Development, Animal Husbandry, Rural Development), has further aggravated the situation.


  • Encourage fodder production and stall feeding in the fringe areas with the help of agricultural, animal husbandry and other departments.

  • Assess carrying capacity of the grazing areas in terms of grazing pressure (number/ha.) and availability of fodder.

  • Formulate and enforce appropriate access rules for grazing.

  • Make provisions for vaccination.


19Poaching is the most significant factors causing extinction of large wildlife species. Among all wildlife taxa, larger mammals are the most prone to hunting. Relatively large meat yields and commercially valuable by-products such as hide, horn and bone make them attractive targets for poaching. Two distinct types of poaching viz market oriented (ivory, skin of tiger and leopard), and local-level (meat of gaur, sambar, chital, hare, etc.) occurs in the area. Although many other not so spectacular species of animals ranging from reptiles to birds as well as plants (including medicinal herbs) are poached and collected for illegal trade, they fail to get the kind of attention the mega fauna does.

20The major impact of poaching is species loss and change in their demography apart from causing forest fire. Though the number of offences related to poaching reported from the landscape units is only few, the inquiries in the field with the local people indicate that poaching is a widespread phenomenon. During the discussions, forest staff have agreed that about 80 % of the ranges (out of 21) are prone to severe poaching. The poaching pressure is felt at the inter-state boundary of the landscape unit and at access points from neighbouring State. The poor surveillance, lack of mobility and inadequate intelligence gathering network are some of the major impediments in tackling poaching. The lack of coordination with other departments has worsened the situation.


  • Identify poaching prone areas and habitat of vulnerable species and make available adequate infrastructural support for the protective staff.

  • Identify the entry points of poachers and their ‘facilitators’.

  • Gather information about the market of poached material (s) and network of people involved in selling the product.

  • Educate and sensitize the people manning check post on illegal trade of wildlife and products.

Ganja cultivation

21The cultivation of ganja is practised in the remote localities inside the forests. Ganja is cultivated by clearing primary evergreen forests in the higher altitudes. This results in destruction of valuable microhabitats for flora and fauna. Denudation causes soil erosion, change in microclimate, and colonisation by invasive species. The people who practise ganja cultivation also engage in poaching and ignite forest fires. The forest staffs have opined that 50 % of the ranges in the landscape units are susceptible to ganja cultivation. Abandoned estates in Nelliyampathi region are reportedly more prone. Efforts of forest department were not effective enough for eradicating it. It is necessary to develop and implement special plans to tackle ganja cultivation. All aspects of the illegal activity such as vulnerable areas accessibility, perambulation calendar, etc. needs to be described in the theme plan.

Tree felling

22The fringe area population involve in the timber pilferage, for own use as well as for sale. The primary impact of tree felling is biodiversity loss, loss of habitat for many epiphytic and arboreal species (lion-tailed, macaque, great Indian hornbill, etc.) and the removal of biomass. The opening up of canopy due to felling alters the microclimate, which encourages light demanding species (mainly exotic weeds) colonizing in the gap. Thus the structure of the vegetation is altered. Following strategies and actions are suggested for reducing such incidents:


  • Arrange alternative affordable timber sources to the local people

    1. Assess the timber needs of the local population and take steps to meet this demand from plantations.

    2. Encourage fringe area people to grow timber species in their homesteads.

    3. The restoration zone adjacent to the settlements should have provisions to supply timber through special afforestation programs. Community institution in respective settlement may be entrusted for the management of this type of plantations.

Sand mining

24Removal of sand from the riverbed has been identified as a management issue in many parts of the landscape units. Sand mining is a threat to the stability of riverbanks. It also causes declining of water table. The removal of sand would endanger the survival of several riparian species (both plants and animals) since most of them are habitat specific with strong niche specialisation. Till today the forest personnel are not empowered with legal support for controlling sand mining in the forest areas.


  • Provide legal provision in the Kerala Forest Act (1961) for empowering forest staff for regulating sand mining.

  • Assess the local demand and finalize the sand collection points in consultation with Panchayat administration, local people and NGOs.

  • Regulate vehicular transport to the streambed by developing a sand depot sufficiently away from the stream.

  • Ensure the collection and marketing of sand through a network involving KFD, VSS/EDC and Panchayat representatives.

  • Conduct regular monitoring of stream banks to assess the impact of sand mining with appropriate method.

Illicit distillation

26Illicit brewing is carried out in many parts of the landscape units especially in the fringe areas in the Chalakudy division. Although frequent raids are organised, the problem could not be eradicated because of the social dimension of the issues that are too complicated for a single agency such as forest department to take up.

27Brewing within and in the vicinity of forests involves consumption of a large quantity of firewood, disturbance to wild animals and potential threat due to poaching and fire. There are instances where the wild animals were poisoned by bootleggers due to fear of them damaging the molasses.


  • Identify the brewing prone areas in the landscape unit

  • Include provisions in the Kerala Forest Act (1961) to check illicit brewing in the forests.

Sandalwood smuggling

29In the landscape units sandalwood has only a restricted distribution. High demand for sandalwood and oil are the main inducement for smuggling. Though sandalwood exists only in two divisions, the smuggling poses constraint to the adjacent divisions also. Removal of wood results in the extirpation of the species accompanied by other types of anthropogenic disturbances such as fire incidence, poaching and anti-social activities. The obstinate nature of the offenders makes this a very difficult to contain problem even though regular perambulations are made. The only strategy that could be worked out is the strengthening of protection measures with sufficient infrastructures.


30Perennial water bodies such as reservoirs, rivers and canals provide exceptional opportunities for fishing in the landscape unit. Indiscriminate fishing with poison and explosives make severe impact on fish diversity and demography. Although the primary and secondary impacts (poaching, tree felling, fire and collection of NWFP) of fishing are noticed, no proper regulation involving local people has been formulated so far.


  • Assess the fishery potential of the water bodies

  • Institutionalize fishing and marketing of fish through local community

  • Provide legal approval for controlled fishing and develop access rules

  • Explore the possibility of enforcing closed periods of fishing in reservoirs during breeding season.

  • Avoid introduction of exotic fish species in the reservoirs and streams.

Firewood collection

32Firewood collection is one of the traditional and widespread dependencies of local population. It occurs in all parts of the landscape units. Major impact of firewood collection is the removal of biomass, which affects biodiversity and the litter dynamics of the ecosystem. The net effect of firewood collection is degradation of habitat, which subsequently alters the species composition and vegetation types. Although plantations were raised under fuel wood schemes, the resource is mainly supplied to industries and even lops and tops from the coupes are not provided to the local people. The strategies to reduce the threat include prevention of commercial level exploitation of firewood from the forests and at the same time to encourage fuel wood plantation in the degraded vegetation close to habitation. Some of the actions to address the strategies are:

  • Assess the requirement local fuel wood requirements at local level

  • Estimate the availability of lops and tops that may be available from thinning or felling of plantations. Possibility of establishing fuel wood yards for the benefit of the settlement also may be explored. The present practice of burning the ‘wastes’ after felling may be discouraged

  • Ensure the supply of lops and tops to local people as fuel wood and in turn ensure their service or cooperation in protecting the plantation.

  • Explore the possibility of raising small fuel wood plantation with fast growing species adjoining the settlement and ensure management of these plantations through participatory committees

Illegal collection of NWFP

33NWFP collection is one of the major sources of livelihood to the adivasi communities. Illegal removal of NWFP is a widespread phenomenon and considered as a serious management constraint towards biodiversity conservation and sustainable utilization. NWFP is being collected from almost all areas within the landscape units, though the collection is prohibited in wildlife sanctuaries. Over harvesting and early harvesting have reduced the availability of NWFP resources. Though certain activities such as planting of selected species have been carried out in the NWFP management circles, the success of these programmes is doubtful. There are no policy and initiative from the KFD to impart training on sustainable collection method, value addition and other related procedures regarding NWFP.

34Streamlining the NWFP collection, marketing and promoting regeneration through local level institutions form the major strategy with following activities:

  • Reconstitute the existing institutional arrangement for NWFP manage-ment by involving VSS, tribal cooperatives, SC/ST federation, Ayur-vedic manufacturers and other user groups to oversee the NWFP collection, monitoring, marketing and regeneration.

  • Entrust the collection of NWFP items with tribal people or VSS members from the designated management zone.

  • Assess the status, ecology, regeneration capacity and resilience to exploitation, demand and availability of the NWFP species.

  • Provide training to NWFP collectors on sustainable harvesting, post harvest treatments, and storage etc.

  • Encourage cultivation of NWFP species (especially medicinal plants) in the restoration zones and/or the degraded area surrounding the settlements.

  • Empower FDA and VSS in better marketing of NWFP items

  • Phase out the contractor system for reed and bamboo collection and entrust the same through FDA and VSS

Collection of poles

35The collection of small poles is a wide spread practice in the fringe area for banana crops and for the construction purpose. Removal of particular size class of ‘trees of future’ affects natural regeneration. The collection of poles was noticed extensively in the Nelliyampathi adjoining the estates. Apart from this most settlements adjacent to forests also utilize poles in house construction.


  • Assess the demand for poles among local people.

  • Raise bamboo plantations in the vicinity of settlements (in the restoration zone) to meet the demand of poles.

  • Encourage people to use alternate for poles and cultivation of bamboo as a substitute.


37Forest encroachment is one of the age-old problems in the State and especially prevalent in fringe areas of territorial divisions. The direct impact of encroachment is habitat loss and fragmentation. The encroachment also leads to mounting anthropogenic pressure on forest resources by way of removal of fodder, fuel wood, timber, NWFP, etc. In addition to direct involvement in the illegal activities they provide shelter for the unscrupulous offenders who engage in illegal activities such as poaching, felling and forest fire. The current practices of eviction seldom get success due to political backing enjoyed by offenders.


  • Monitor the encroachment prone areas with the aid of remote sensing data

  • Demarcate permanent forest boundaries in the vulnerable areas

Human-wildlife conflict

39The man-animal conflict is not unknown in the landscape. The nature of it varies from damaging the crop, properties, lifting the domestic animals and fatal attacks on people. Forest staff opined that the issue deserved high priority in management. KFD has provision for compensating the crop and property damages, human casualties, cattle lifting by animals like tiger, leopard and guar. In some areas where conflict is rampant, physical and psychological barriers are being provided for deterring the animals from human habitations and cultivations. However, these have only temporary effects.


  • Check the encroachments to wildlife areas and fragmentation and degradation of habitat to minimize the straying of animals to human habitation.

  • Encourage the fringe area people to modify the cropping pattern so that crop species preferred by animals are minimised.

Mass tourism and pilgrimage

41A number of locations in the landscape have features that would attract tourists. Many plantations in the Nelliyampathi have already diverted their activities to attract visitors in the backdrop of a slump in the tea and coffee markets. Plantation tourism is also picking up in the region. There are a couple of water theme parks that attract large volume of domestic tourists along the Chalakudy-Athirappally route. The central as well as the state governments promote tourism in the forest areas also. Efforts have been taken by the KFD with the help of the local people to streamline the tourism activities in some parts of the landscape unit (Athirappally, Vazhachal, Thattekkad, Parambikulam, Chimmony). These initiatives have produced desired results by reducing impacts.

42In the case of pilgrimage the management is a troublesome affair due to the large congregation of visitors whose amenability towards control is minimal. The pilgrimage to the Kurisumudi, located in the reserved forest of Malayattoor division attracts an estimated 15 lakh devotees per year. At present the forest department does not have any control on the pilgrimage.

43The major impacts of tourism and pilgrimage are littering (pollution) and over-utilization of resources such as water and fuel wood. Associated impacts such as soil erosion, fire, disturbance to wild animals in foraging and free ranging, etc. are evident. Lack of proper infrastructure is found to be the main bottlenecks in managing tourism in many places. Coordinated involvement of agencies such as District Tourism Promotion Council, Tourism Department and private enterprises are yet to be realised.


  • Assess the existing visitor volume and pressure in each area in the context of carrying capacity.

  • Involve local level institutions (Panchayat, self help groups, VSS/EDC) in managing the pilgrimage.

  • Establish information centres for imparting knowledge on ecological, biological social and cultural significance of the area. And provide sufficient guiding materials for helping the visitors to understand the nature and natural value to minimize the impact.

  • Develop coordination mechanism involving user groups such as travel agents, tourist operators, hoteliers, tourism departments, district tourism promotion councils, participatory forest management committees, and NGOs.

  • Organise monitoring of fire incidents, regeneration surveys, littering, soil erosion and other impacts

Invasive species

45The invasive species accumulate and consume the resources by not contributing significantly to the ecosystem process may be considered as weeds. The major weed species present in the landscape units are Mikenia, Lantana and Eupatorium in deciduous forests. Mikenia a climber spreads over canopy and ground suppressing growth of vegetation. Other weeds, mainly woody shrubs to tall herbs, compete vigorously with forest species for nutrients. Aggressive colonization of weeds on one hand decreases the availability of fodder to herbivores and on the other, increases the fuel load during the dry months. This aggravates the fire incidences. In majority of the forest ranges weeds is a serious management issue. In PAs, it is considered as an agent of habitat degradation affecting wild animals and, in non-PAs, it is considered more as a pest in plantations.


  • Implement time bound plans to control invasive species with following actions

    1. Identify the weeds and demarcate the area infested

    2. Explore the possibility of involving local institutions in removal of weeds prior to flowering. This may help in reducing the fuel loads and the biomass thus removed can be used as green manure or for compost making.

    3. Explore the possibility of using participants of nature camps, visitors, NGOs and other volunteer groups in removing the weeds.

    4. Explore the possibility of biological control of weed eradication.

Diversion of forestland for non-forestry purposes

  • 1 MOEF, 2004 Forests and Wildlife Statistics-2004. Ministry of Environment and Forests, Government of (...)

47Diversion of forestland was one of the important factors of forest loss in the country. In India a cumulative area of 9548.39 km2 has been diverted for various purposes since independence (MOEF, 2004).1 This practice of diversion of forestlands for non-forestry purposes continued unabated for about 30 years. Various measures were taken to check this by shifting of forests to the “Concurrent List” in 1976. Despite these measures, need for an adequate regulatory act was felt and Forest (Conservation) Act of 1980 was passed. The act prohibits diversion/de-reservation of forestland for non-forestry purposes. In Kerala alone 407.28 km2 of forestland was diverted for various purpose. In the landscape units, forestland diverted for non-forestry purpose amount to nearly 204.88 km2, out of which approximately 66 percent is for commercial plantations by governmental and non-governmental agencies and remaining for power and irrigation projects. In all cases large-scale land use/land cover change was inflicted in the forests. Besides fragmentation of habitats and loss of biodiversity, secondary impacts of diversion, such as increased accessibility of interior forest areas through roads, renders forest susceptible to encroachments and degradation.

Diversion for river valley projects

48In the landscape units, there are 8 reservoirs with a total extent of 90 km2, among these large reservoirs are Parambikulam (17.30 km2), Edamalayar (27.71 km2) and Sholayar (9.43 km2). Some of these impoundments have submerged ecologically valuable river valleys. Major impacts due to river valley projects in the region are listed below:

    • 2 Studies have indicated that the Chalakudy river basin is one of the important riparian habitats in (...)

    Habitat loss and fragmentation: Most of the animal life is affected by the habitat loss. Movements of terrestrial species are affected due to reservoirs, creating an ‘insular effect’ and consequential genetic shift. Biologically rich areas such as riparian habitats are also disappeared due to submergence. Discontinuities of lotic habitats due to damming the river and drying up of the down stream have serious impact on the fish habitats.2 Besides these, a number of unknown faunal groups, especially the herpetofauna are seriously affected due to habitat loss. High-tension power transmission lines also impose pressure on the habitat due to the clearance of vegetation and in certain cases faulty alignment resulting in elephant and tiger casualties.

  • Development of non-adivasi population and large-scale encroachment of forestland have taken place in many localities in the landscape following construction of dams and roads. PAP colony in Parambikulam and Puliyilappara enclave in Poringalkuthu are examples. The Edamalayar power project has been responsible for increase in accessibility to the areas and has paved path for immigration and encroachment.

  • Adivasi communities were displaced due to dam construction in all localities. In case of Muthuvans and Mannans the displacement has incurred severe cost on livelihood as they lost fertile cultivation tracts. In case of the Kadar, Malasar, Malayans and Malamalasars their brief debut as labour force in dam construction has been disadvantageous not only because their traditions were weakened but in the process they were also rendered landless. These foraging communities have lost NWFP rich habitats under water and reservoirs have imposed restrictions over their free movements in the forest landscape.


  • Formulate transparent procedures for diversion of forestland for non- forestry purposes

    1. Conduct discussion on Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) report and public hearing impartially by involving all the concerned civil society representatives to formulate better consensus on the issue. Although EIA and public hearing are made mandatory before approval of forestland diversion, these have almost lost their strength owing to the over-riders and manipulations by large pro-dam groups. A different mechanism for arriving at the decision-making needs to be evolved, were the voices of the all concerned groups can be accommodated.

    2. Ensure the implementation of environmental and social mitigation measures suggested as part of the projects through an independent institutional arrangement where the representatives of human rights commission, NGOs, local people should be included apart from departments concerned.

    3. Introduce provisions for penalty (including withdrawing the approval) of the project if the mitigation works are not satisfactory.

    4. Discourage further large-scale interventions/modifications of the landscape in the region.

Diversion for commercial plantations

50Leasing of forestland for raising plantations has been taking place from the second half of 19th century. The objectives of leasing in the colonial period were for raising plantations of commercial crops of coffee, tea and cardamom in the higher altitude and for rubber in the foothills. In the post independence period the leases were made for raising plantations of commercial crops such as, cashew, rubber and for pulp wood species by forest-based corporations or by Industries. At present there are 134.58 km2 area of forestland under lease in the landscape unit. Diversions of forestland under lease for plantations also have serious impacts on biodiversity. Fragmentation and change in land use produce undesirable landscape mosaics. Ecologically malign influences of such mosaics range from changes in insect- pest population, climatic variations, spill over of agrochemicals, increased human pressures to intrusion of cultivated species into the forests.

Case of lease lands in Nelliyampathi

51In Nelliyampathi the land for opening coffee plantations was first leased out in 1863 by the rulers of Kollengode and Cochin. The area leased by the erstwhile Cochin State was approximately 7110 acres. The leases executed with the Kollengode Raja did not stand up to the government lease status during the regime change in 1947 and was subsequently awarded title to approximately 6,090 acres. The leases executed in the post-independence period explicitly stated the conditions of rights and management, though specific remarks are not made in the earlier leases. Major species planted in the Nelliyampathi are of tea, coffee, cardamom and pepper. The main road access to the Nelliyampathi from Nemmara was made in 1937. During the Forest Settlement in 1908, 25 estates in the plateau with a total extent of 9419.20 acres were treated as “enclosures” within the forest reserves even though the revenue department regulated them. Following this, many estates were abandoned and were taken over by forest department by declaring them as Reserved Forests. Though most of the old leases are either perpetual (for ninety-nine years), certain regulations were imposed by the government over the leases irrespective of the lease conditions. All the leases are covered by The Grants and Leases (Modification of Rights) Act of 1980. Large scale tree felling by estate owners in Nelliyampathi hills during 1990 to 1996 invited public protests. Though these felling were done after obtaining permission from government it was later controlled by a court order in the backdrop of a Public Interest Litigation. The Supreme Court further ratified this order and further felling and operations such as pruning for shade etc. were regulated as per the recommendations of an expert committee constituted by the state government.

52In few cases, the lease period got expired and the land was annexed by the government and handed over to KFD for management. Some of the lease lands are freely appropriated by the lessees and violations of the lease rules are reported. In the process, the legal status of the lease land was manipulated for private appropriation. Cases of such violation of the lease rules and encroachment of the adjacent forestlands are reported from the region. In the absence of adequate manpower, management of annexed estates is proving to be a burden to the forest department.


  • Develop institutional mechanism to manage the resumed estates

    1. Constitute a management committee under the leadership of KFD with local level institution (VSS/EDC) to manage the resumed estates.

    2. Impart basic training to the members of the local level institutions for better management. Ideally a professional management should oversee the day-to-day activities of the estates.

  • Explore the possibility of reverting/annexing some of the strategically placed and biologically rich abandoned or ill managed estates to natural forests.

    1. Enumerate and Prioritize the estates on strategic location

    2. Conduct constant dialogue with the estate owners/leaseholders through planters association

    3. Annex the estates with the approval of the owner/leaseholder

  • Ensure ecologically sound protocols while renewing new lease agreements. In the backdrop of the past experiences and by considering the biological wealth fresh lease conditions should be evolved. This protocol should be legally supported and be made mandatory in all the future lease agreements.

  • Develop an institutional mechanism involving the planters association, KFD and other user groups for better coordination and management of the hills.

Road development

54Road development through forest areas has long lasting negative implications on the biodiversity conservation such as the fragmentation of habitat. Roads and volume of traffic acts as a barrier for free movement of animals and may inflict behavioural changes deterring them from using certain critical habitats such as saltlicks, water holes, vayals etc. near the roads. Road casualties of larger fauna such as deer, gaur and elephants are reported from various parts of State. High traffic on the roads cutting across the forest also raises the risk of forest fire, poaching, littering and spread of weed propagules etc. The Chalakudy – Anamala State Highway 21 passing through Athirapally, Vazhachal, Poringalkuthu, Sholayar and Malakkappara is the only road cutting across the full length of the landscape unit. Expansion of traffic and improvement of road could invite proposals for erecting fuelling stations and motels deep inside the forests.

55The erstwhile Aluva-Munnar road through Pooyamkutty was destroyed due to floods and land slides in 1924. There are demands from various quarters for rebuilding the abandoned road. Various agencies, local bodies and settler populations, in the Pooyamkutty, Pinavoor etc., are keen on pursuing the matter. If commissioned, the road will cut across the valuable patch of evergreen forests in the region spelling doom to the contiguity and quality of forest landscape as wildlife habitat. Development of a road would also increase the price of land and fuel large-scale land use changes, alienation of tribal land and a fresh wave of immigration and encroachment of these forests.


  • Develop comprehensive and ecologically safe protocols for diverting forestlands for the road development.

    1. Conduct EIA on the forest areas where proposed, renewal or widening of road is suggested and attempt a cost benefit analysis based on ecological principles.

    2. Develop and enforce ecologically safe protocols in road development

  • Enforce strict regulation on traffic in the forest roads

    1. Install check posts and Regulate odd hour traffic

    2. Install road signs and boards to alert the drivers regarding animal movement, non-littering and fire hazards.

  • Commission a department level scientific appraisal of the development activities including the legal and social implications.

Restoration zone

57From colonial period through recent times, forests in the study area are under constant pressure of resource extraction. Consequently, considerable area of forests has been transformed and degraded to diverse secondary stages such as thickets, scrub-woodland and savannas, fallows and open wastelands. Although several degraded areas are capable of naturally recuperation if protected. However, depredatory factors operating in the study area are major impediments in restoration. The challenging task in the management of landscape is to mitigate threats on while restoring the degraded zones for regaining its pre-existing biotic integrity and community structure with the help of local people. In fringe areas and around habitations the degraded forestland may be used to meet the resource requirements of forest dwelling population in a restricted manner.

58The vegetation cover such as semi-evergreen forests and degraded formations (thickets, tree savannas, open areas and fallows) is considered as the restoration zone (Figure 10.2). The total extent the zone is 286 km2, of which 125 km2 is in LU13 and 161 km2 in LU16. The settlements and related village institutions (VSS and EDC) located in the scattered patches of degraded areas provide an opportunity for carrying out restoration activities through PFM. Following actions are required for effecting restoration:

  • Identify patches of degraded lands and their status based on structural variability in terms of species diversity, richness, endemism and from the angle of animal utilization.

  • Prioritize the patches based on the importance of biodiversity conservation

  • Identify and implement site-specific activities based on ecological requirements.

  • Constitute efficient team of resource persons for monitoring the restoration activities.

  • Impart specific training for forest staff as well as to locals to handle the scientifically approved restoration activities.

  • Ensure restoration of degraded forest by minimising anthropogenic pressures such as fire, soil erosion, etc.

59Involve local people in all the above process including implementation and monitoring.

Figure 10.2 Distribution of degraded vegetation for restoration in the LUs


60This chapter examined the constraints posed from a number of direct and indirect threats to biodiversity and proposed some of the measures for overcoming them. We have tried to show that direct constraints, almost entirely anthropogenic, destroy the forest and its components while, the indirect emanate from the basic social, economic, political, cultural and historical factors of human life. Reviewing direct constraints or human induced threats of the landscape, such as encroachment and the entailing deforestation, heavy extraction of NWFP, extensive cattle grazing and human made fire, it is argued that they exert severe impact on the forest ecosystem. We have further argued that in the wake of population growth, industrial pressure and livelihood dependence, there is an unprecedented increase in the demand for natural resources, which intensifies the threat against the rare and endangered species. The situation of the landscape unit with heavy dependence well exceeding the carrying capacity, and high population pressure, is quite grim. Among the measures to overcome the constraints, we sought to endorse participatory strategies along with the departmental upgrading of scientific inputs as well as technical devises for adopting appropriate precautionary measures as well as effective encounters for checking or reducing deleterious impacts. We have underlined the fact of worldwide consensus about the issue that it is the efficient prior information system and not reliance on ad hoc responses that is critical for effectively encountering threats to biodiversity.


1 MOEF, 2004 Forests and Wildlife Statistics-2004. Ministry of Environment and Forests, Government of India. New Delhi.

2 Studies have indicated that the Chalakudy river basin is one of the important riparian habitats in the state in terms of fish diversity. The impacts of the past interventions on the fish communities and consequential population extinctions are not known.

Table des illustrations

Titre Table 10.1 Range wise occurrence of different threats (management issues) in the landscape units
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Légende Figure 10.1 Distribution of fire prone vegetation in the LUs
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Légende Figure 10.2 Distribution of degraded vegetation for restoration in the LUs
Fichier image/jpeg, 49k


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