The rich biodiversity of the Western Ghats is safe and free from adverse effects of plantation crops grown on slopes, union Minister of State for Commerce Jyotiraditya Scindia said Friday.
"Cultivation of plantation crops in the Western Ghats will not affect its rich bio-diversity or disturb the ecological balance between flora and fauna in the region as feared," Scindia said at a planters' conference here.
Though the Western Ghats ecological expert panel, set up by the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF), recommended promoting organic agriculture and discouraging cultivation of plantation crops on slopes exceeding 30 percent, Scindia said his ministry differed with the panel's observations and conclusions.
"We have sent our views to the MoEF, clarifying that cultivation in the Ghats will not impact the region's bio-diversity," Scindia told about 800 planters and other stakeholders at the 119th annual conference of the United Planters' Association of South India (UPASI).
Straddling across five states from western to southern India, the Western Ghats or the Sahyadri constitutes a mountain range in the Deccan Plateau as one of the eight hottest hotspots of biological diversity in the world.
Originating from Gujarat-Maharashtra, the 1,600 km range runs through Goa, Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu, converging at Kanyakumari in southern India.
The Ghats are home for over 5,000 exotic species of flowering plants, 139 mammal species, 508 bird species and 179 amphibian species.
Outgoing UPASI president D. Hegde cautioned the MoEF against implementing the Gadgil panel's recommendations, as they would sound the deathknell for the plantation sector.
"We have represented to the MoEF not to pursue the recommendations as it is going to be difficult for the plantation sector to survive," Hegde said in his presidential address.
The Gadgil panel also proposed phasing out the use of chemical pesticides, insecticides, fungicides and weedicides in three to five years in ecological sensitive zone one (ESZ1), and in eight to ten years in ESZ2 and ESZ3.