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September 19, 2012

CALL FOR PAPERS: Announcing Major Kerala, India Ecology Conference

Asian ElephantDr. Glen Barry of Ecological Internet to serve as Academic Convener, and present on the global biodiversity, ecosystem and biosphere imperatives for biocentric land planning and strengthened legal protections for Kerala's Asian elephants - and their corridors, particularly the Sigur plateau - as an umbrella species for other ecological values.

Dear forest protection colleagues,

I am pleased to announce a major international conference on conservation of India's forests, wild life, and ecology; and to issue a call for academic papers and attendance. The conference will occur in mid-December, 2012, in Kerala, India, located in the Western Ghats, which is known for its lush ecosystems, tremendous biodiversity - including viable Asian elephant populations - and high levels of human development, as well as human encroachment upon these vital ecosystems. Noted ecologist Dr. Madhav Gadgil, author of the important and controversial Kerala ecological land sensitivity designations, as well as Dr. V. S. Vijayan, Chairman of Salim Ali Foundation and Former Chairman of Kerala Bio-Diversity Board, have indicated they will be participating in the conference.

The Kerala Eco Conference will emphasize global aspects of Kerala's ecological sustainability issues, placing issues of Western Ghats' broad environmental challenges within the larger international perspective of climate change, mass extinction, loss of ecosystem services, international environment law, landscape planning, and land use laws and policy. It is desired that various countries' practices as to protection of their hills and mountains' terrestrial ecology, and protecting watershed functionality and wildlife corridors in their countries, can provide an essential global view to the proceedings. An emphasis will be upon biocentric planning and law for India's ecology, people, elephants and other biodiversity, and their future together.

Ecological Internet has been active in campaigning to protect critical elephant corridors in Kerala since 2006, achieving stunning success, including the relocation of a proposed Neutrino laboratory from prime elephant corridor habitat. On this basis, I have been asked to act as academic convener and coordinator for the conference, and will be presenting a paper which examines the importance of ecological conservation in the Western Ghats to global climate and ecological sustainability. I will highlight the importance of biocentric landscape planning to ensure adequate elephant habitat and corridors – particularly in the Sigur Plateau – using elephants as an umbrella species to secure ecosystems, biodiversity, water and future sustainable development potential.

I ask that you please circulate the conference announcement (below) widely – particularly to your environmental law and academic ecology colleagues and departments around the world – as this will truly be an international affair. I would love to make your acquaintance there personally, as we work together to protect one of the most special natural ecosystems on Earth. Please contact the conference organizer Nagaraj Narayanan at nagaraj@keralalawacademy.org, or myself, with any questions. I hope to see you soon in India's special evergreen city!

Warm regards, for Earth,
Dr. Glen Barry
Political Ecological and President, Ecological Internet

P.S. Within the next few days additional conference materials will be made available at http:// KeralaEcoConference.org/

***********************************


Kerala Law Academy
Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala, India
And
The Centre for Advanced Legal Studies and Research (CALSAR) Thiruvananthapuram

FIRST INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE ON
CONSERVATION OF FORESTS, WILD LIFE AND ECOLOGY
15-17 December 2012

Theme: The legal regime and measures for conservation of the ecological balance and bio diversity of the Western Ghats

1. The First International Conference of the KLA on Conservation of Forests, Wild Life and Ecology organized by the Kerala Law Academy (www.keralalawacademy.org) and CALSAR will be held at the Kerala Law Academy campus in Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala, India from 15.12.2012 to 17.12.2012. The theme of the First International Conference 2012 is the legal regime and measures for conservation of the ecological balance and bio diversity of the Western Ghats.

2. About the Theme and the Problem of the Conference: The Western Ghats is the life line for millions of Indians, besides being a world natural heritage site and a place of topmost biological diversity importance for the world.

2.1 The Western Ghats form one of the major watersheds of India, feeding the perennial rivers of India. It provides the drinking water source to the millions of people in the four southern states of India namely Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh and to the people of the States of Maharashtra, Goa and certain areas of Gujarat. It is also the depository of gene pool and reservoir of natural resources and biological diversity. The Western Ghats has a delicate, sensitive and fragile eco system consisting of evergreen tropical rain forests, moist deciduous forest, dry deciduous forests, sholas, montane rain forests, montane grasslands and grass land eco system, mystica swamps, wetlands etc.

2.2 The Western Ghats contains several National Parks, Wild life sanctuaries biosphere reserves and reserved forests. Most of the fauna including mammals and avian fauna as well as the flora in the Western Ghats are both endangered and endemic. For instance, the Nilagiri Tahr, Great Hornbill, Indian Grey Hornbill, Malabar Pied Hornbill are endemic to this area as well as they are endangered. So also is the case of tiger, elephant and several other wild animals. Several species have become extinct and several others are classified as threatened/ endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature Resources (IUCN) and listed in the IUCN red list of threatened species.

2.3 Though the Western Ghats has already obtained more prominence and significance at the International level by its inclusion in the UNESCO World Heritage Sites, yet there are several problems and issues which threaten and endanger the safety and conservation, biological and ecological values of the Western Ghats. Some of them are as follows:

(i) Issues like mining for metals and minerals and other exploitation of natural resources, encroachments, constructions, Hydro Electric Power Projects, Wind Power Projects and other Power Projects, Irrigation Dams, religious activities, Social Forestry, Deforestation for wood, Tourist resorts and residential Constructions and resorts pose serious threat and danger to the ecological balance and biological diversity of the Western Ghats and also lead to large scale destruction of the forests, wildlife and eco system.

(ii) The above activities result in blockage of corridors of passage for the wild animals from one side of the forest to another and the wild life is seriously threatened. Thus wild life corridors are blocked and for instance, elephants are choked in certain areas.

(iii) Several Tea, Coffee and Teak plantations in the Western Ghats lie enclosed inside reserve forests and are surrounded by thick forests on all sides. Most of these plantation estates have been created during colonial period by the British after clearing vast tracts of forest land. Erection of fences, electric fences, boundary walls, trenches etc in the estates and around them cause obstacles and hurdles for the smooth passage of mammals from one side of the forest to other side of the forest thereby affecting the movement of wild animals and blocking the forest corridors. Moreover further construction and development activities within the estates, increased human activities in human settlements inside the estates and on the fringes of forests, conversion of land use pattern and construction of resorts etc. cause substantial damage to the surrounding biodiversity and ecological balance and disturb and annoy the surrounding wild life and create an adverse ambience and atmosphere for wild life.

(iv) Deforestation, Tourist activities, construction and development activities also create serious disturbances to the flora.

(v) Expansions and Extensions of human settlements in the Western Ghats and its foot hills, human construction, encroachments and land grabbing in and around forest areas in the Western Ghats and its foot hills and the deliberate and ill motivated acts of fragmentation of large estate holdings have resulted in breaking the corridors and passages of wild animals and loss of natural habitat for the wild life. This has resulted in creating man-animal conflict. Several instances of man eating leopards as well as elephant attacks are reported regularly from the Malakkapara–Valpara–Sholayar areas of the Western Ghats. Likewise destruction of crops and forays into human settlements by wild elephants in several areas of the Western Ghats as a result of the shrinking and loss of natural habitats of the elephants, are quite common.

(vi) Another important threat is the rapid change in the landscape and land use patterns in the Western Ghats affecting the watershed function, biodiversity and the ecological balance of the Western Ghats which would cause substantial depletion to the drinking water sources, loss of natural habitat of wild animals and loss of wild life corridors and connectivity.

(vii) The Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel Constituted by the Ministry of Environment and Forests of the Government of India under the chairmanship of Mr. Madhav Gadgil has submitted a 85 page report dated 31-08-2011 along with Appendix and Annexures ( in short “Gadgil Committee report”), to the Central Ministry of Environment and Forests, which published it only on 23-05-2012 and the said Gadgil Committee report finds the Western Ghats as ecologically sensitive area and contains several recommendations for its protection and conservation. (For the Gadgil Committee reports see, http://moef.nic.in/downloads/public-information/wg-23052012.pdf ; For the minutes of the final meeting of the Gadgil Committee see http://moef.nic.in/downloads/public-information/MoM-14-Bengaluru.pdf). However the very same Government which has constituted the Gadgil Committee has not accepted the Gadgil Committee report and some of the states where the Western Ghats is situated have raised serious objection to the recommendations of the Gadgil Committee report causing apprehension in the minds of those interested in the protection of ecology and such objections raise serious issues in relation to conservation of Western Ghats. The Government of India has now during August 2012 set up a committee under the chairmanship of Planning Commission member K Kasturirangan to review the Gadgil Committee report and the Kasturirangan Committee is expected to submit its report in two months (see http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2012-08-21/developmental-issues/33302495_1_western-ghats-ecology-experts-panel-report )

2.4 It may well be noted though that their exist numerous legislations in India aiming at the Protection of Forest and Wildlife. Some of them are as follows:

The Forest (Conservation) Act,1980.
The Indian Forest Act, 1927
The Environment (Protection Act), 1986
The Biological Diversity Act, 2002
The Wildlife Protection Act, 1972
The Kerala Forest Act, 1961
Kerala Private Forests (Vesting and Assignment) Act, 1971
Kerala Grants and Leases (modification of Rights) Act, 1980
The Madras Preservation of Private Forest Act, 1949
The Kerala Preservation of Trees Act, 1986
The Kerala Forest (Vesting and Management of Ecologically Fragile Lands)
Act, 2003.
The Kannan Devan Hills (Resumption of lands) Act, 1971


2.5 But in spite of these legislations, encroachments into forest lands, destruction of the biodiversity and ecological balance of the Western Ghats and destruction of the flora and fauna are a regular and continuous feature/ phenomenon in the Western Ghats. The above said legislations are practically found inadequate to deal with the threat or unable prevent such encroachments and destruction in many situations.

2.6 Hence, the conference would discuss and propose suggestions and make Declaration on the following:

* To locate the controversial locations/areas of the Western Ghats and identify problems in conserving the ecology of the Western Ghats.

* To suggest means, methods and ways to strengthen the existing legal frame work and regime for protection and conservation of the biological diversity and ecological balance in the Western Ghats.

* To suggest changes in the existing legislations by way of amendments to strengthen the legal frame work for protection and conservation of the biological diversity and ecological balance in the Western Ghats.

* To suggest new legislations at the central or state levels or formulate a new legal framework for protection and conservation of the biological diversity and ecological balance in the Western Ghats.

* To discuss the implications of the World Heritage site status for various sites in the Western Ghats and suggest means and measures to realize the implications of the world heritage status to the conservation value of the Western Ghats and suggest measures to attain the benefits of the World Heritage status for the conservation of Western Ghats.

* To examine and discuss the Gadgil Committee report, its follow up, objections of the State Governments and constitution of the Kasturirangan Committee to review Gadgil report and suggest future courses of action , measures and means for conservation of Western Ghats. (For the Gadgil Committee report see, http://moef.nic.in/downloads/public-information/wg-23052012.pdf ; For the minutes of the final meeting of the Gadgil Committee see http://moef.nic.in/downloads/public-information/MoM-14-Bengaluru.pdf ).

* To examine the importance of the conservation of the ecology of Western Ghats to planet earth, world environment, Global climate and international community.

2.7 The papers that will be presented at the Conference on the above issues from an international perspective -- with recommendations, suggestions, proposals, etc. -- and reflecting superb quality would be published. Declaration of the Conference will also be published.

3. International perspective: The need for conservation of biological diversity and ecological balance in the Western Ghats is the concern of the global community as it is an essential and inevitable requirement to combat climate change and global warming. The ecological function, biodiversity, evergreen forests, fauna and flora of the Western Ghats are part of the common heritage of mankind and its continuing influence on the global climate and ecological balance of our planet is a matter of great concern for the present and future generations of planet earth.

4. About Western Ghats: Western Ghats or the Sahyadri constitute a mountain range along the western side of India. It is an UNESCO World Heritage Site and is one of the ten hottest hotspots of biological diversity in the world. This range runs north to south along the western edge of the Deccan Plateau, and separates the plateau from a narrow coastal plain along the Arabian Sea. Its highest peak is Anamudi having elevation of 2695 metres.

4.1 The range starts near the border of Gujarat and Maharashtra, south of the Tapti river, and runs approximately 1,600 km through the states of Maharashtra, Goa, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala ending at Kanyakumari, at the southern tip of India.

4.2 The mountains intercept the rain-bearing westerly monsoon winds, and are consequently an area of high rainfall, particularly on their western side. The dense forests also contribute to this. The Western Ghats block rainfall to the Deccan Plateau. The average elevation is around 1,200 m (3,900 ft). These hills cover 160,000 km2 (62,000 sq mi) and form the catchment area for complex riverine drainage systems that drain almost 40% of India. Thus the Western Ghats form one of the four watersheds of India, feeding the perennial rivers of India. The east flowing rivers drain into the Bay of Bengal and the west flowing rivers which drain into the Arabian Sea, are fast-moving, owing to the short distance travelled and steeper gradient. Many of these rivers feed the backwaters of Kerala and Maharashtra.

4.3 The area is one of the world’s ten "Hottest biodiversity hotspots". The area is ecologically sensitive to development and was declared an ecological hotspot in 1988 through the efforts of ecologist Norman Myers. Though this area covers barely five percent of India's land, 27% of all species of higher plants in India (4,000 of 15,000 species) are found here. Almost 1,800 of these are endemic to the region. The Western Ghats has over 5000 species of flowering plants, 139 mammal species, 508 bird species and 179 amphibian species and several of these species are not found elsewhere in the world and are endemic to this region. It is likely that many undiscovered species live in the Western Ghats. At least 325 globally threatened species occur in the Western Ghats.

4.4 In August, 2011, the Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel (WGEEP) designated the entire Western Ghats as an Ecologically Sensitive Area (ESA) and, assigned three levels of Ecological Sensitivity to its different regions. (For more details, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Western_Ghats ; http://www.westernghatsindia.org/ ; http://thewesternghats.in/ ; http://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/energy-and- environment/article3592246.ece)

5. Eligibility for participation:

i. Teaching faculty members and students of universities and other academic institutions, conservationists, biologists, wild life experts, researchers, scientists, forest experts, forest officials, judges, jurists and lawyers are eligible to participate.

ii. Participation is strictly based on selection of the synopsis submitted by the intending participant.

iii. Participation is limited to those intending to contribute to the Conference by submission of working/research paper, project, article, etc., that would contain some concrete proposal, suggestions, or recommendations relating precisely to the selected theme.

iv. Intending participants are requested to submit their synopses to the organizers at any of the following email addresses: nagaraj@keralalawacademy.org ; nagu7adv@gmail.com ; kla@asianetindia.com, by 31-10-2012, inclusive. A copy of their curriculum vitae/ bio-data must accompany their respective synopses. Enquiries can also be had at http://keralalawacademy.org/contact.php or http://www.keralalawacademy.in/contact.php (Details of Kerala Law Academy at www.keralalawacademy.org ; www.keralalawacademy.in)

v. The intending participant will be formally invited to the conference only after his/her synopsis has been selected. Professors, Associate professors, experts and students of repute will be given preference. The selection of synopses shall follow the submission of synopses on first come first serve basis.

vi. For effective and fruitful discussion, formulations and conclusions, the participation is limited to 80, which may, however, be slightly relaxed at the discretion of the Organizing Committee, depending on given circumstances. The success of the conference will be the quality of discussion, resolutions and proposals. The papers and materials presented and the discussions, suggestions, proposals, formulations, conclusions etc at the conference shall become the property of the organizers who will have copyright over the same.

vii. The selected participant is expected to register for the conference on or before 10-11-2012. The registration fee is 75 US Dollars. In case of students, the fee is 50 US Dollars.

viii. The Academy will arrange for transportation from and to the airport on prior intimation of arrival and departure. The transportation will also be provided to the participants on the conference days. The Academy will provide for free meals and accommodation to participants from 15-12-2012 to 17-12-2012. The circulation of papers and materials will be arranged by the Organizing Committee.

ix. The air travel fare, visa expenses and related expenses will have to be met by the participant. On 18-12-2012 and 19-12-2012, the interested participants will be taken to their place of choice in the Western Ghats. The travel expenses on these days will be borne by the Academy. Accommodation and food expenses, however, will have to be borne by the participant. On prior intimation by the participant, the Academy could also arrange sightseeing tour(s) for the participants to any tourist destination of their choice on economical/discounted rates. The expenses of such tour(s) shall be borne by the participants.

x. The entire proceedings of the Conference will be documented and some of the selected papers will be published. The conclusions and recommendations approved at the Conference and the Declaration of the Conference will be published and submitted to the Government and relevant enforcement agencies and authorities for state action and guidance. The conference will also decide on the theme for the next conference.
xi. For enquiries and information, intending as well as selected participants can contact Mr. Nagaraj Narayanan, Programme Coordinator of the Conference at nagaraj@keralalawacademy.org or kla@asianetindia.com or http://www.keralalawacademy.in/contact.php.

6. The tentative programme schedule:

Each session will have a steering panel of 3 to 5 experts and each session will have 2 hours duration. Papers presented will be circulated. First 30 minutes for the steering panel to present important suggestions / proposals based on papers and their view points followed by One hour for discussion which will be controlled by the steering panel and finally 15 minutes for the conclusion of the session by the steering panel. There will be 12 sessions of which the first Session on 15.12.2012 will be inaugural session and the last session on 17.12.2012 will be the concluding session. Remaining 10 sessions will be discussion sessions on the theme. Sessions from 15.12.2012 to 17.12.2012 will be divided as follows:

The tentative schedule
15.12.2012 ( Saturday)

9.00 am - 11.00 am
Inaugural Session

11.00 am - 11.15 am
Tea

11.15 am - 1.15 pm
Legal and other implications of World Natural Heritage Status to Western Ghats and the benefits to Conservation.

1.15 pm - 2.15 pm
Lunch

2.15 pm - 4.15 pm
Challenges of electric projects (Hydro, Wind etc) to the ecology of Western Ghats and legal implications and measures; Controversial locations – Problems, challenges: International position.

4.15 pm - 4.30 pm
Tea

4.30 pm - 6.30 pm
Challenges of mining, quarrying and other exploitation of natural resources to the ecology of Western Ghats: perspective, issues, legal measures; Controversial locations– Problems and challenges: Practice and approach at International level.

16.12.2012 ( Sunday)

8.45 am - 10.45 am
Challenges of Plantation estates, agricultural operations, religious activities, social forestry, tourism, tourist resorts to the ecology of Western Ghats and legal measures; Controversial locations – Problems, challenges: Practice and approach at International level.

10.45 am - 11.00 am
Tea

11.00 am - 1.00 pm
Significance of Wild Life corridors and connectivity in Western Ghats and legal measures for protection and restoration of wild life corridors and connectivity: International perspective.

1.00 pm - 2.00 pm
Lunch

2.00 pm - 4.00 pm
Challenges to the watershed role of the Western Ghats and legal measures for protecting the watershed role: International position.

4.00 pm - 4.15 pm
Tea

4.15 pm - 6.15 pm
Gadgil Committee report and Kasturirangan review Committee, its implications, legal issues: International perception, future courses and measures.

17.12.2012 ( Monday)

8.45 am - 10.45 am
Role of landscape and land use pattern in the Western Ghats to the conservation of ecology in Western Ghats: Issues, Problems and legal measures – International perspective.

10.45 am - 11.00 am
Tea

11.00 am - 1.00 pm
Endemic flora and fauna and endangered ones in the Western Ghats – Problems and legal measures – International significance, perspective and challenges.

1.00 pm - 2.00 pm
Lunch

2.00 pm - 4.00 pm
Adequacy of existing legislations and need for change/ new legislations for conservation of ecology and biodiversity of Western Ghats.

4.00 pm - 4.15 pm
Tea

4.15 pm - 6.15 pm
Declaration and Concluding session
7. About Kerala and Thiruvananthapuram: Thiruvananthapuram is the capital city of Kerala, a southern State of India. Kerala occupies a unique position in the history of India and the world. It is the only state in India which can claim the status of having 100% literacy. It is also a state which is having the highest human development index and social development in India, which is comparable to the best of the developed countries in Europe. Wedged between the Western Ghats on the East and the Arabian Sea on the West, the narrow strip of land known as Kerala is a nature’s beauty to be cherished for a lifetime. The entire eastern boundary of the state comprises of the Western Ghats running to around 620 kms in length and its Western boundary is the Arabian sea with a coastal line of around 590 kms. The width of the state varies from 12 kms to 120 kms. The state is blessed with abundance of rivers, fresh drinking water sources, flora, fauna and other natural resources and is the home to the endangered species of Asiatic elephants, tigers and other endemic species, all of which are under severe threat due to human greed, development and exploitation.

7.1 Even though the state of Kerala has the highest density of population in India, the state is full of greenery with abundance of trees and is known as the ‘God’s own country’ for its green cover, exotic back waters and lakes (both fresh water and saline), hill stations, pristine forests including the evergreen tropical rain forests of the Western Ghats situated at heights varying from 100 meters to 2650 meters, beaches etc.

8. About Tourism in Kerala: Kerala is named as one of the Ten Paradises of the World and Fifty Places of a Lifetime by the National Geographic Traveler Magazine. The alluring serenity of this place leaves every tourist spell bound, making them come back year after year. Be it the sun-kissed beaches or the misty hill stations; the rhythmic backwaters or the forests immensely rich with variegated flora and fauna; pilgrim centers or historic monuments; Kerala has a grand panorama, spread far and wide to be seen. This land holds promise of leaving visitors mesmerized and gifting them with one of the best holidays they have ever had. Kerala is one of the most sought after tourist destination and a must visit place. It is a perfect destination for tourism, holidays, honeymoon, art, culture, tradition, health care, yoga, ayurveda and meditation. The timeless beauty of the palm fringed beaches of Kovalam and Varkala, the majesty of the undulating hills of Munnar and Vagamon and the Western Ghats, the serenity of the pristine backwaters of Kumarakom and Kuttanad and the enchanting woods and forests of Thekkady and Silent Valley will have you bowled over. That such a small terrain can hold diverse geographical features and cultures is a wonder in itself.


Nagaraj Narayanan
Programme Co-ordinator
1st International Conference on Conservation of Forests,
Wild Life and Ecology
Kerala Law Academy
Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala
India
nagaraj@keralalawacademy.org ; nagu7adv@gmail.com
http://www.keralalawacademy.org/faculty-nagaraj.html