BANGALORE, INDIA—A long-running battle over conservation and development in India has taken a new turn. India’s Ministry of Environment and Forests disclosed on 27 August that it had shelved a report calling for aggressive measures to preserve the ecology of the Western Ghats, a UNESCO World Heritage Site encompassing a large swath of southwestern India that’s home to at least 500 endemic species of fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals. Instead, the government has adopted another set of recommendations that some ecologists say will do too little to safeguard the region’s biodiversity.
Biodiversity in the Western Ghats has been under siege for decades. A 1997 study in Current Science found that the region lost about 40% of its forest cover between 1927 and 1990 to agricultural fields, coffee and tea plantations, and hydroelectric reservoirs. Habitat fragmentation has put endemic birds such as the Nilgiri wood pigeon and white-bellied shortwing and mammals such as the Nilgiri tahr, Malabar civet, and lion-tailed macaque on endangered lists.