Tamil Nadu losing its lungs: Western Ghats

Western Ghats
Mountain ranges in the Western Ghats

Western ghats is the mountain range along the western coast of the Indian peninsula. It covers an area of 140,000 km and stretches over the states of Tamil Nadu, Goa, Karnataka, Gujarat, and Maharashtra. According to a UNESCO report they regulate rainfall in India and are home to thousands of species of flora and fauna. 

However, these widespread green mountains are being lost to deforestation in the name of development and building economy. This has caused habitat loss to flora and fauna, rain deficiency in the Southern region of India, and other ecological imbalance. The forest is alone responsible for 50% of the total rainfall in Tamil Nadu. 

Causes for deforestation in the state

The Nilgiris district of the Ghats was under cultivation for over two centuries under the British rule. The growth of alien species like rubber has converted the soil into acidic and do not allow the other indigenous species of the range to grow. 

The cutting of forest to build roads and railways are considered among the prime reasons for deforestation in the ghats. The undesirable agriculture practices and pressure of increasing population in the region has added to the reasons for depletion of green ranges.

Over the years, real estate and tourism industry has also added to the conversion of forest land into concrete jungle. 

Effect of deforestation on rainfall

The Western Ghats has lost 35.3% of its forest cover over the last 90 years. As per one of the findings of Indian Space Research Organisation’ , it is an endangered ecosystem. In Tamil Nadu, 15.4% of forest cover was lost.

According to a new study by researchers from IIT Bombay, the amount of rainfall that Tamil Nadu receives and the forest cover in the Ghats are directly proportional. 

As monsoon from other sources dry, the contribution from the green range appears higher during deficit years. These forests, according to the research, contribute 1 mm per day of rainfall during June and July over most locations in Tamil Nadu and 3 mm per day during August and September, says a report of Hindustan Times

According to a study, during the three most monsoon-deficit years -1993, 1999 and 2002, Tamil Nadu gained rains from the dense forests of the Ghats. Due to deforestation, Tamil Nadu is facing great impacts.

Ecological impact of deforestation

The very obvious impact is loss of natural habitat of animals. A lot of species of flora and fauna have become endangered.

The deforestation has led to erosion of soil; thus, increased in the pollution percentage. Climatic change, increase in number of diseases, droughts, floods, rise in sea level, and increase in temperature in the state, says a study

Need to conserve of Western Ghats

“Tamil Nadu is at present under severe water crisis due to inter‐state water sharing and related controversies. We emphasize the urgent need of enforcing strict laws to stop the deforestation of WG not only to retain bio‐diversity but also to maintain the water cycle over these semi-arid parts of Peninsular India,” a report of Down to Earth says. 

The only way to restore the forest is to practice reforestation. It will help in water crisis of the state and keep the endangered flora and fauna intact. The step requires awareness and involvement of people. 

The Western Ghats is required to be conserved to maintain the ecological balance.