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Western Ghats

posted by Madhav Gadgil

“When ascending, and on gaining the summit of any of these passes (in the Western Ghats), the scenery which everywhere presents itself is of the grandest kind. Some idea of it may be formed by imagining mountains succeeding mountains, three or four thousand feet high, covered with trees, except in places where the huge, black, barren rocks are so solid as to prevent the hardiest shrub from finding root in their clefts. The verdure about the Ghats to the southward of Poona is perpetual, but during the rainy season, especially towards the latter part of it, when the torrents are pouring from the sides of the mountains, the effect is greatly heightened by the extreme luxuriance of vegetation”.

- Grant Duff (1826) History of Marathas, Vol. 1

Describing King Raghu's conquest of the four corners of India, Kalidasa likens the mountain range of Western Ghats to a comely young maiden, her head near Kanyakumari, Anaimalais and Nilgiris her breasts, Goa her hips, and her feet near river Tapi. All over the world, such mountains, endowed as they are with high levels of environmental heterogeneity, are treasure troves of natural diversity. Thus, in the Western Ghats the annual rainfall ranges from as much as 8000 mm in the south-western corner of the upper Nilgiris to a mere 500 mm in the Moyar gorge just 30 km to its east. In contrast, the annual rainfall spans a range of no more than 1000 mm over hundreds of kilometres across the Deccan plateau. Mountains also create isolated habitats far away from other similar habitats, promoting local speciation. Hence distinct species of the flowering plant Rhododendron and the mountain goat Hemitragus occur on the higher reaches of the Western Ghats and Himalayas, with a large gap in the distribution of these genera in between. Moreover, mountains, being less hospitable to human occupation, retain much larger areas under natural or semi-natural biological communities. This is why the Western Ghats and the Eastern Himalayas are today the most significant repositories of India's biodiversity. Amongst them, the Western Ghats scores over the Eastern Himalayas in harbouring a larger number of species restricted to India alone. Not only are the Western Ghats and Eastern Himalayas biological treasure troves, they are also two of the world's biodiversity hot spots, a hot spot being a biodiversity-rich area that is also under a high degree of threat.

I was born and brought up amidst the hills of Western Ghats and have been engaged in scientific studies of the ecology of this hill range since 1971. Over this period I have witnessed a continual heightening of the threats, not only to the natural heritage, but also the quality of life of the denizens of this mountain range. I have been greatly interested, not only in the ecological health of the region, but also the way people, ranging over forest graziers, farmers and horticulturists to paper-mill and mine-operators and dam-builders. I have interacted with farmers’ cooperatives and mineral exporters’ associations, gram panchayats and state legislatures, served on State Planning Boards and Central Government’s Hill Area Development Programme Advisory Committees. I have written on such issues in newspapers and other media. I will attempt through this website to share much of the resultant material. 

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Madhav Gadgil,
Dec 12, 2017, 2:43 AM
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Madhav Gadgil,
Dec 12, 2017, 2:47 AM
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Madhav Gadgil,
Dec 12, 2017, 2:44 AM
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Madhav Gadgil,
Dec 12, 2017, 2:46 AM
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Madhav Gadgil,
Dec 12, 2017, 2:58 AM
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Madhav Gadgil,
Dec 12, 2017, 2:30 AM
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Madhav Gadgil,
Dec 12, 2017, 2:34 AM
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