The Western Ghats in India is one of the world’s most heavily populated Biodiversity Hotspots, providing for and supporting 400 million people through water for drinking, transport, irrigation, and hydroelectric power, together with food and resources to sustain livelihoods. However, the pace of growth of the Indian economy and rates of industrial and urban development are not in tune with the conservation needs of this freshwater ecosystem and the remarkably high diversity of species they contain. In most instances the development planning process does not consider the ecosystem’s requirements, mainly due to a lack of adequate information on the distribution and status of freshwater species and the threats they face. There is also little appreciation of the value of freshwater ecosystems to the livelihoods of many people, often the poorest in society. In response to this need for information and raised awareness, the IUCN Global Species Programme’s Freshwater Biodiversity Unit, in collaboration with the Zoo Outreach Organisation (ZOO), conducted the Western Ghats Freshwater Biodiversity Assessment to review the global conservation status and distributions of 1,146 freshwater fishes, molluscs, odonates and aquatic plants.
The geographic scope of the project included all major river catchments with their origin within the Western Ghats Biodiversity Hotspot. The Tapi, Krishna, and Cauvery systems are included, with freshwater species native to the Western Ghats states of Gujarat, Maharashtra, Goa, Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu, as well as parts of Andhra Pradesh and western and southern portions of Madhya Pradesh, Orissa and Chattisgarh, assessed. The IUCN Red List Criteria, the world’s most widely accepted system for measuring relative extinction risk, were applied to assess the status of all species, with information on each species compiled by more than 40 experts from the Western Ghats and elsewhere.