Ecology is the science of the relationships between organisms and their environment.
���We are beginning to realise the weakness of our civilisation. Many want to shake off the dogmas imposed upon them by modern society - those who are bold enough to understand the necessity, not only mental, political and social changes, but the overthrow of industrial civilisation and of the advent of another conception of human progress������ - Man, the Unknown - Dr. Alexis Carrel.
Whither the Sahyadris ?
ECOLOGICAL SURVIVAL OF
THE WESTERN GHATS
���We cannot have ecological movement designed to prevent violence against nature, unless the principle of non-violence becomes central to the ethics of human culture��� - Mahatma Gandhi
The Sahyadris - also known as the Western Ghats comprise fragile but vital ecosystems of the Indian subcontinent. Rare, moist deciduous forest type, sub-temperate montane wet grasslands and shola forests, high species endemism, uniqueness of lowland evergreen forest in a monsoonal climate and biogeographical significance of this isolated area between the African and Indo-Malaysian blocks make the Western Ghats a very important biological resource. In fact the Western Ghats like the South American rainforests form the ���girdle��� of the earth and help maintain global ecological balance.
The Western Ghats also harbour a large diversity of human cultures - in the less than 20,000 sq. km. of Kerala Western Ghats there are more than 38 distinct tribal communities. This region, which is globally recognised as a ���hotspot��� area of great conservation concern is under constant threat due to many anthropogenic factors. And the tide of ecodegradation is sweeping over the entire tract destroying most of the biodiversity.
The hill ranges form an almost unbroken rampart on the fringe of the western peninsula parallel to the west coast of India for about 1600 km. They start immediately south of the Tapti river, the northern most point being, the Kundaibari Pass (21006���N, 74011���E) in Dhule district of Maharashtra and ending near Kanyakumari (80N) barely 20 km from the sea in Tamil Nadu. The entire range encompasses six States - Gujarat, Maharashtra, Goa, Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu.Malsej Ghats, Maharashtra
The Western Ghats cover an area of approximately 1,59,000 sq.km with an average elevation of 900-1500 m. ASL. Rising up from a relatively narrow coastal strip(average width: 40 km), the hills reach up to a height of 2,695 m.(8,843 ft.) at Anaimudi Peak in Kerala before they merge to the east with the Deccan plateau at an altitude of 500-600 m. The average width of the mountain range is about 100 km.
Cheeyapara Waterfalls, Kerala
The decline of the primary forest : the amount remaining seems to be no more than 8,000 sq. kms.
All but isolated pockets of original forest have been opened up allowing a takeover by deciduous species and bamboo among other forms of ���degenerate��� vegetation.
A study which estimated changes (2002) in the forest cover between 1973 and 1993 in the southern parts of the Western Ghats using satellite data reveals a loss of 25.6 percent forest cover in that period.
Nilgiri Tahr, Eravikulam
The fact remains that half-hearted conservation attempts by the Governments and various agencies amount only to patchy efforts and the rate of deforestation has accelerated in recent years with a steady environmental decline of the whole region. The threat has all the more increased with the combined pressure of urbanisation, industries, mining, deforestation, submergence by dams, introduction of railways, large scale encroachments, poaching etc. The fragmentation of these forests form a major threat to species conservation, and lack of green cover will not only turn the area into barren hills but could result in the devastating cycle of floods and droughts in the downstream areas.
Unless the Governments, International Agencies and the people of the region wake up to the harsh realities, and take some drastic steps for the conservation of the region, this rich, lush, highly resourceful region will be lost forever with very unpleasant and adverse effects on the liveable environment of the subcontinent.