THE Western Ghats, the 1,600-km mountain range that runs from Gujarat to Kerala, is recognised as one of the world’s ten top bio-diversity hotspots with 1,471 species of flowering plants and 403 species of birds. The Western Ghats have come under severe pressure mainly from mining activity.More than 300 globally threatened species are found in this area. Hence the decision of the environment ministry to constitute a panel headed by Prof Madhav Gadgil to suggest ways to conserve, rejuvenate and manage this range is a step in the right direction. The 14-member panel will meet in Bengaluru on November 18 and 19 for a brainstorming session on joint forest management. The Western Ghats have come under severe pressure mainly from mining activity. In Goa alone, the issue of illegal mining in forest areas was raised several times in the Assembly and with more leases in the pipeline, the future of some portions of the ghats is under threat. The mines along the Western Ghats yield low grade ore which has little or no demand in the country. Hence, most of it is mixed with higher grade ore and exported. However, in recent times, high demand for low grade ore in China has resulted in more pressure on the Western Ghats. Although formation of an environment panel makes good sense, it would be prudent to involve the mining industry in the debate. It also needs to be emphasised that the first step towards conserving and rejuvenating the Western Ghats is by bringing illegal mining to a halt. Until state governments or the Centre are reluctant to do this, no progress on forest management is possible.