|Demand of the question Introduction. Contextual introduction. Body. Discuss the importance of Eastern Ghats for Indian biodiversity. Mention various threats to Eastern Ghats and suggest some measures to protect it. Conclusion. Way forward.|
The Eastern Ghats are a discontinuous range of mountains along India’s eastern coast. Stretching about 1,750 km north to south, it runs from the northern Odisha through Andhra Pradesh to Tamil Nadu in the south. They are eroded and cut through by four major rivers of peninsular India viz. Godavari, Mahanadi, Krishna, and Cauvery. It has great importance for Indian biodiversity, as a habitat to many endangered flora and fauna.
Importance of Eastern Ghats for Indian biodiversity:
- Forests: Eastern Ghats biospheres are rich forests with perennial and semi-perennial streams and other natural resources. The forests include dry evergreen, semi-evergreen forests, tropical dry deciduous forests, dry savannah forests, tropical dry scrub forests, southern tropical thorn forests and subtropical hill forests.
- Flora: The Eastern Ghats ranges are home to 13% of India’s flowering plants. In these mountains exist a reservoir of about 3,000 flowering plant species, nearly 100 of them endemic.
- Fauna: They are also the habitats for wild animals such as elephants, panthers, the Indian bison, bears, deer, wild boar, mongoose, jungle cat and reptiles such as python, monitor lizard, etc. About 290 bird species and nearly 4,000 insects are also found.
- Irrigation: These hills get an average 1,000 millimetres of rainfall, mostly from the north-east monsoon. Rivers like Cheiyaru, Amirthiyaru, Mriganda, Pennaiyaaru, Cauvery etc. originate from the hills of the Eastern Ghats. Their water irrigates the foot hills and nearby plains.
- Tourism: Waterfalls such as the Periyar Falls, Megam Falls, Beeman Falls etc. also make the land fertile apart from drawing tourists.
Threat to Eastern Ghats:
- Deforestation: By making use of the loopholes in the laws and other government rules, trees are removed clandestinely. The aromatic and valuable sandal trees, once growing abundantly in the hills have been indiscriminately felled and illegally removed. These activities have made the hills of Eastern Ghats barren, its streams have run dry and the biodiversity is disappearing gradually.
- Mono-cropping: The tribals living in the hills have not received proper price for the food grain they cultivate. They have thus switched over to mono cropping tapioca, leading to deterioration of land. Mono-cropping in Kolli Hills and Pachamalai has devastated entire hills.
- Plantation: Large-scale plantations of coffee, tea and orchards have been raised in these hills. Silver oak trees grown in these plantations as shade trees are also removed gradually, weakening the fragile ecosystem. Such plantations are considered to be the cause for degradation in places like Yercaud hills, depleting native vegetation.
- Invasion: Non-native species such as poochedi, vengaya thamarai and veli karuvai have become invasive, destroying native species and leading to ecological imbalance.
- Illegal mining: The removal of enormous quantities of bauxite and magnesite ore from Kolli Hills and Servarayan Hills, respectively, led to indiscriminate destruction of forests. Consequently, water resources in these regions have dried up.
- Forest fires: The annual forest fires have become a serious cause for the loss of biodiversity. The pollution caused by the industries established near forest areas also poses a serious threat.
Measures to conserve Eastern Ghats:
- Ecotourism: The concept of ecotourism involving local forest stake-holders may be a boon to not only residents but also the biota of the entire region. While the ecotourism programme takes care of the livelihood of locals by making them stake-holders, the forest and its biodiversity are guarded by eco-tourism management.
- Eco-development: Only if an effective strategy for the eco-development of these regions is developed by involving the local people, the flora, fauna and other natural resources of Eastern Ghats can be protected. Otherwise the future of the Eastern Ghats and its precious biodiversity will be only an illusion.
- Afforestation: Improving tree cover nationally is important and will confer multiple benefits, including modulation of the monsoon, improved air quality and wider spaces for biodiversity to persist.
- Effective law implementation: Law should be implemented properly in letter and spirit. Government must increase the number of forest officials to actively monitor and prevent illegal activities in forests.
The role of the northern Eastern Ghats in harbouring and protecting biodiversity is also being widely recognized in recent years. Several new species discovered in the landscape recently and records of the presence of a tiger population point to the rich biodiversity thriving in these forests. Efforts must be made to restore the forests and promote eco-development.