The Western Ghats, is a mountain range that covers an area of 160,000 km2 (62,000 sq mi) in a stretch of 1,600 km (990 mi) parallel to the western coast of the Indian peninsula, traversing the states of Karnataka, Goa, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Kerala, and Tamil Nadu. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is one of the eight hotspots of biological diversity in the world. It contains a very large proportion of the country’s flora and fauna, many of which are only found in India and nowhere else in the world. The area is one of the world’s ten “hottest biodiversity hotspots.” It has over 7,402 species of flowering plants, 1,814 species of non-flowering plants, 139 mammal species, 508 bird species, 179 amphibian species, 6,000 insects species, and 290 freshwater fish species.
However, the destruction of Western Ghats poses a perilous threat to environment. Recurring floods and landslides in the mountains, hills and areas downstream between the Ghats and the sea, show that India must rethink its environmental law to balance the needs of nature and humans. Climate change is already having an obvious impact, with unprecedented rains in monsoon seasons and severe drought and dry rivers in summer. And as the human population has grown, people have chopped down the forests and replaced them with spice, tea, coffee and rubber plantations. Thousands of illegal stone quarries now also operate in the Ghats, where mountainsides are demolished to generate stones and sand for the construction industry. Deforestation and the use of highly destructive explosives mean these areas are prone to increased seismic tremors and landslides. It is therefore the need of the hour to conserve and also to reforest the flora that we have mercilessly destroyed for our selfish needs.
Benefits of Native Plants :
· Planting native species of trees and shrubs helps to re-establish the original eco-system of the region
· They are very well suited to our climate and soil types and, once established; require much less water
· They have evolved defences to many diseases and insect pests.
· They create deep and extensive root systems, which help to stabilize the soil column and create an environment favourable to building fertile soils rich in organic matter.
· They absorb excess nutrients from runoff, enhancing infiltration during periods of heavy rain as well as drought.
· They provide habitat for butterflies, hummingbirds, songbirds, and beneficial insects.
Keeping these objectives in mind, a group of volunteers from IMER College Belagavi, as a part of project SERI, worked with The Green Saviours Association in carrying out a species identification and propagation activity which involved the documentation of 12 native species of the Western Ghats region.