What is Western Ghats? Which is the highest peak of Western ghats? What are the differences between the climates on the western ghats’ eastern and western slopes? Read more to know about the Western Ghats.
The Deccan plateau is encircled by ghats to the west and east. Among these, western mountain ranges are known as the Western Ghats.
The biological richness and endemism of the Western Ghats are well recognised for these qualities. It is also one of the eight biodiversity hotspots on the planet.
What is Western Ghats?
The Deccan Plateau is bordered on its western side by the Western Ghats, also known as the Sahyadri, a mountain range that extends from north to south. It divides the plateau from a slender coastal plain that runs beside the Arabian Sea.
These hills cover 160,000 km² (roughly 6% of India’s total geographical area) and form the catchment area for complex riverine drainage systems that drain almost 40% of India.
The average elevation is around 1,200-1300 metres. The Western Ghats are home to 30% of flora and fauna species found in India.
39 Western Ghats series sites were added to UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites.
The Western Ghats are known as Sahyadri in northern Maharashtra, Sahya Parvatam in Kerala and Nilagiri Malai in Tamil Nadu.
States and Union Territories under the Western Ghats
Six states—Gujarat, Maharashtra, Goa, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, and Kerala—as well as two Union Territories—Dadra & Nagar Haveli and Pondicherry—are home to the mountain region.
The range begins near the Gujarati border, south of the Tapti river, where the eastern part of Dadra and Silvassa in D&N is occupied by the foothills of the mountains. It ends at Kerala’s Anamudi peak, almost 1600 kilometres south of where it began.
Mahe in Pondicherry is situated on the Malabar coast on the Western Ghats surrounded by Kerala.
Mountains in the Western Ghats
- Numerous hill towns, including Matheran, Lonavala-Khandala, Mahabaleshwar, Panchgani, Amboli Ghat, Kudremukh, and Kodagu, may be found in the mountain region.
- The extreme northern parts of Western Ghats fall in the Dangs district of Gujarat, known for the Dang (Bamboo) forests.
- The Eastern and Western Ghats converge in Karnataka near Biligirirangan Hills. The highest peak in the mountain region is Anamudi, which is 2,695 metres high. The highest peak in Karnataka is Mullayanagiri, which rises 1,950 metres.
- They conjoin the Anaimalai Hills to the northwest, the Palni Hills to the northeast and the Agasthyamalai Hills to the south as far as the Ariankavu pass.
- There are many important passes in the Western Ghats such as Tamhini Ghat, Palakkad Gap, Naneghat, Kasara ghat etc.
- The short coastal plain between the mountain region and the Arabian Sea is divided into three parts: the northern part, known as the Konkan Coast, the centre part, known as Kanara, and the southern part, known as the Malabar area or the Malabar Coast.
- The foothill region east of the Ghats in Maharashtra is known as Desh, while the eastern foothills of the central Karnataka state are known as Malenadu.
Rivers in the Western Ghats
- Peninsular India is home to 245 million people, most of whom depend on rivers coming from the mountain region for their water supply.
- The rivers that originate in the Western Ghats and flow towards the west are Periyar, Bharathappuzha, Netravati, Sharavathi, Mandovi etc.
- The Western Ghats’ westward-flowing rivers move quickly because of their short travel distance and greater grade. Because of this, the Western Ghats are more advantageous for producing hydroelectricity than the Eastern Ghats.
- The steep gradient makes the Jog Falls on the Shravasthi River in Karnataka one of the most spectacular waterfalls in India. Narmada and Tapti although don’t rise from the Western Ghats but flow westwards.
- The rivers that originate in the mountain region and flow towards the east include three major rivers viz. The Godavari, Krishna and Kaveri, and many smaller / tributary rivers such as Tunga, Bhadra, Bhima, Malaprabha, Ghataprabha, Hemavathi, and Kabini.
- These east-flowing rivers are comparatively slower moving and eventually merge into larger rivers such as the Kaveri and Krishna.
Climate of Western Ghats
- Due to the mountains’ ability to obstruct rain-bringing westerly monsoon winds, the western side of the Western Ghats receives more rainfall than its eastern side. It, therefore, has a significant impact on the pattern and intensity of India’s monsoonal rainfall.
- The dense forests also contribute to high orographic precipitation. The climate is humid and tropical in the lower reaches tempered by the proximity to the sea.
Elevations of 1,500 m and above in the north and 2,000 m and above in the south have a more temperate climate.
- Here, the yearly average temperature is close to 15 °C. Some regions frequently get frost, and the winter months have temperatures below freezing. 20 °C in the south to 24 °C in the north are the average temperatures. Additionally, it has been shown that the South Western Ghats’ coldest and wettest seasons are related.
- During the monsoon season between June and September, the unbroken Western Ghats chain acts as a barrier to the moisture-laden clouds. The heavy, eastward-moving rain-bearing clouds are forced to rise and in the process deposit most of their rain on the windward side. Rainfall in this region averages 3,000–4,000 mm.
- The eastern region of the mountain region which lies in the rain shadow receives far less rainfall averaging about 1,000 mm bringing the average rainfall figure to 2,500 mm.
Vegetation of Western Ghats
- The vegetation on high hills differs from that on low slopes as well. As a result, the Western Ghats are home to a wide variety of plants.
- The western slopes have tropical and subtropical moist broadleaf forests marked predominantly by Rosewood, Mahogany, Cedar etc. These slopes appear green in almost all parts of the year. No time is fixed when these trees would shade their leaves.
- The eastern slopes of the mountain region have dry as well as moist deciduous forests marked predominantly by Teak, Sal, Shisham, Sandalwood etc. trees.
- Further, on the northern side of the Wayanad forests; we find dry deciduous forests while on the southern side there are wet deciduous forests. The evergreen Wayanad forests of Kerala mark the transition zone between the northern and southern ecoregions of the mountain regions.
- The southern ecoregions are generally wetter and more species-rich. South Western Ghats Montane rain forests are the most species-rich ecoregions in peninsular India. 80% of the flowering plant species of the entire Western Ghats range are found in this ecoregion.
- The areas which are high in elevation are cooler and wetter in the north and so the forests there are called North Western Ghats Montane rain forests. There are montane grasslands as well as stunted forests also in the Western Ghats.
Protected Areas in Western Ghats
The Western Ghats is home to India’s two biosphere reserves, 13 National parks, several wildlife sanctuaries and many Reserve Forests.
1. The Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve comprises 5500 km² of the evergreen forests of
- Deciduous forests of Bandipur National Park
- Nugu in Karnataka
- Mudumalai National Park in the states of Kerala and Tamil Nadu forms the largest contiguous protected area in the Western Ghats.
2. The Silent Valley National Park in Kerala is among the last tracts of virgin tropical evergreen forest in India.
Numerous types of flora and wildlife, including hundreds of species that are threatened with extinction globally, may be found in the Western Ghats. Many of these species are also endemic to the region. Covering an area of 180,000 sq. km, or just under 6 per cent of the land area of India,
The Western Ghats are home to over 5000 species of flowering plants, 139 mammal species, 508 bird species and 179 amphibian species, and many undiscovered species live.
It contains more than 30 per cent of all the plant, fish, herpeto-fauna, bird, and mammal species found in India.
The mountain region include a diversity of medicinal plants and important genetic resources such as the wild relatives of grains, fruit and spices.
Some endemic species of mountain region include Malabar large-spotted Civet, Lion-tailed Macaque, Nilgiri Tahr and Brown Palm Civet
The Western Ghats are under rising population and development pressure, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature 2020.
This requires intensive and targeted management efforts to conserve the existing values and also remediate past damages.
Madhav Gadgil committee reiterated that human interference and unscientific land use had worsened the already damaged ecosystem of the mountain region.
Climate change and Global warming have led to big variations in the duration and intensity of rainfalls in the region.
Article written by: Aseem Muhammed