India Environment-alists fear that a big tragedy is waiting to happen at the Western Ghats, as the biodiverse heaven of South India has gone bone dry during its prime season. A fire spotted in the forests by trekkers has only strengthened this alarming forewarning.
Speaking to Bangalore Mirror of the premonition of Sahyadri Samrakshana Sanchaya, a team that works towards safeguarding the pristine forests of peninsular India, its convener Dinesh Holla says their fears are a result of recent observations. I have been trekking in the Western Ghats for over 22 years, and the Ghats never looked like this before during this season. During a recent visit to Ramanabetta and Soppinagudda what we saw was nothing of shocking. The worst being the spotting of a forest fire. The Ghats looks like how it does during the hot months of April and May, he said.
The best time to visit the Ghats, he says, is December-February. Vast destruction of the environment in the form of illegal homestays and resorts has resulted in grasslands going dry. Sources of water for animals between valleys has dried up, so it is obvious that they will enter villages, and that will lead to lead to increased cases of man-animal conflict.
Referring to an elephant trenches being dug up around villages to prevent elephants from entering them, Holla said, This is the place for elephants and the other animals to live. People have encroached their area by building estates, homestays and resorts. Where will the animals go? The movement of humans should be restricted in such areas, he said.
The mass destruction of Western Ghats will not only affect Dakshina Kannada or just Karnataka, but all south-Indian states, he warns. The state has already experienced a poor monsoon because of which rivers across the state have almost gone dry. Very soon we will have just two seasons, summer and rainy season. If forest fires continue to rage, whatever few water sources are left will also go dry. Grasslands that protect the mountains and act as a safety cover have also gone dry. Every activity of destruction in the Western Ghats will have a long-term impact, said Holla.
Water crises in DK looms large
This year, Dakshina Kannada will see one of the worst water crises it has known, Holla predicts. Every now and then forest fires have been noticed in the 123 Km Netravati catchment area from Elaneer to Pushpagiri that includes nine river tributaries spread across the Ghats.