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Gifts of Western Ghats – Rain Forests of India

Western Ghats in Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka is home to tea, coffee and spice plantations, reserved forests, and dense tropical jungles. Elephant, Gaur, Sambar, and Wild Boars dwell in the forests. Sloth Bear, Leopard and tiger are also found. The Western Ghats is home to numerous serene hill stations like Munnar, Ponmudi, Waynad, Ooty, Kodaikannal, Coorg etc. The Silent Valley National Park in Kerala is among the last tracts of virgin tropical evergreen forest in India.

The Western Ghats form one of the three watershed of India, feeding the perennial rivers of peninsula India. Important rivers include the Godavari, Krishna, and Kaveri. Rivers that flow to the west drain out into the Arabian Sea. These rivers are fast-moving, owing to the short distance travelled and steeper gradient. Important rivers include the Mandovi, Zuari, and Periyar. Many of these rivers feed the backwaters of Kerala and Maharashtra. Rivers that flow eastwards of the Ghats drain into the Bay of Bengal. These are comparatively slower moving and eventually merge into larger rivers such as the Kaveri and Krishna. Smaller rivers include the Chittar, Bhima, Malaprabha, Manimuthar, Kabini, Kallayi, Kundali, Pachaiyar, Pennar, and Tambaraparani.

Fast running rivers and steep slopes have provided various state governments set large hydro-electric projects. There are about major 50 dams along the length of the Western Ghats with the earliest project up in 1900 near Khopoli in Maharashtra. Most notable of these projects are the Koyna Dam in Maharashtra, the Parambikulam Dam in Kerala, and the Linganmakki Dam in Karnataka. The reservoir behind the Koyna Dam, the Shivajisagar Lake, is one of the largest reservoirs in India with a length of 50 km (31 mi) and depth of 80 m (262 ft).

During the monsoon season, numerous streams fed by incessant rain drain off the mountain sides leading to numerous and often spectacular waterfalls. Among the most well known is the Jog Falls, Kunchikal Falls, Sivasamudram Falls, and Lushington Falls.

Historically the Western Ghats were well-covered in dense forests that provided wild foods and natural habitats for native tribal people. Its inaccessibility made it difficult for people from the plains to cultivate the land and build settlements. After the arrival of the British in the area, large swathes of territory were cleared for agricultural plantations and timber.

The area is ecologically sensitive to development and was declared an ecological hotspot in 1988 through the efforts of ecologist Norman Myers. Though this area covers barely five percent of India's land, 27% of all species of higher plants in India (4,000 of 15,000 species) are found here. Almost 1,800 of these are endemic to the region. The range is home to at least 84 amphibian species, 16 bird species, seven mammals, and 1,600 flowering plants which are not found elsewhere in the world.

The Government of India established many protected areas including 2 biosphere reserves, 13 National parks to restrict human access, several wildlife sanctuaries to protect specific endangered species and many Reserve Forests, which are all managed by the forest departments of their respective state to preserve some of the ecoregions still undeveloped. Many National Parks were initially Wildlife Sanctuaries.

In 2006, India applied to the UNESCO MAB for some 7 regions to be listed as a protected World Heritage Site.

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