Kaas Plateau: Rare success story of conservation in Western Ghats

Community-led efforts pay rich dividends: Terre Policy Centre

Environment

March 3, 2022

/ By / Pune

Kaas Plateau: Rare success story of conservation in Western Ghats

Kaas Plateau in Spring represents a carpet of pink

Even as the Western Ghats, one of the most endangered and fragile biospheres in the world, continue to be ravaged by reckless construction and mining, Kaas Plateau near Satara in Maharashtra is a rare success story of community-led conservation.

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Kaas plateau is one of the 39 serial sites of the Western Ghats. It became a part of the UNESCO World Natural Heritage in 2012. Kaas extends to about 16 sqkm, just a fraction of the 160,000 sqkm sprawl of the Western Ghats, that have been identified by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as one of the hotspots of biodiversity owing to the threats to its unique ecosystem and its endemic flora and fauna.

As part of its project of Smart Campus Cloud Network, Terre Policy Centre, a Pune-based global NGO, organised an online interaction with experts and community on the challenges and opportunities facing the Management of Kaas plateau. It also launched its Annual Report Card on Management of Kaas Plateau Report whose essence was ‘conservation through collective and community efforts’.

Eric Falt, Regional Director, UNESCO, New Delhi, emphasised the threats of climate change and other bio-toxic and invasive species in the management of the Kaas plateau. He also expressed concern about unsustainable management of tourism and assured assistance of UNESCO in developing a sustainable tourism plan. “Considering that the community is the single most important stakeholder in the conservation of this world natural heritage, UNESCO provides guiding-force for the governments and communities and the advice on sustainable development of the communities around the site,” Falt said.

B Venugopal Reddy, Principal Secretary of Forest Department of Maharashtra government, spoke of various biotic and abiotic pressures over Kaas. “The government is keen to encourage the development of the plan for sustainable conservation of Kaas plateau with multiple stakeholder engagement, including NGOs, experts and locals,” he said. He offered management guidance through expertise of the forest officials and conservationists.

Terre Policy Centre says community effort key in restoration and conservation of Kaas Plateau

Terre has been working with the local community to prepare annual report cards for a decade and also providing the relevant documentation and guidance without any financial help from the government or private support.

On the occasion World Marathi Day, the Marathi version of UNESCO Natural Heritage Management Guidelines was also released during the event.

Chairman of Terre, Rajendra Shende, expressed hope that making available the UNESCO’s management guidelines in local languages would help the Kaas community in effective conservation and development of the site. “Networking with other 38 World Natural Heritage sites in the Western Ghats would accelerate the sharing of the experiences and accelerate the conservation,” he said.

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