Topic: General Studies 3:
- Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment.
Eastern Ghats: A browning east
Climate Change impact warnings for Eastern Ghats underscore the need for their protection
If the Western Ghats are the crown jewels of India’s natural heritage, the Eastern Ghats spread across some 75,000 sq. km. from Odisha to southern Tamil Nadu,
About Eastern Ghats
- Eastern Ghats run almost parallel to the east coast of India leaving broad plains between their base and the coast.
- It is a chain of highly broken and detached hills starting from the Mahanadi in Odisha to the Vagai in Tamil Nadu.
- Eastern Ghats almost disappear between the Godavari and the Krishna. They lose their hilly character and are occupied by Gondwana formations (KG Basin is here).
- They are eroded and cut through by four major rivers viz. Godavari, Mahanadi, Krishna and Kaveri
- Eastern Ghats are older than Western Ghats
- The eastern Ghats are lower in elevation than the western ghats
- The highest peak of Eastern ghats is the Mahendragiri (1500 m)
- It receives an annual rainfall of 1200mm to 1500 mm
- Western and the Eastern Ghats meet at the Nilgiri hills
Significance of Eastern Ghats
- Fostering biodiversity and storing energy in trees.
- In these mountains exist a reservoir of about 3,000 flowering plant species, nearly 100 of them endemic, occurring in the dry deciduous, moist deciduous and semi-evergreen landscapes.
- Many animals, including tigers and elephants, and some 400 bird species are found in these discontinuous forests
- Provides ecosystem services to millions.
- Modulating Climate especially during the retreat of Monsoons (North Eastern Monsoon)
Eastern Ghats faces a threat from Climate Change
- Disruption of the annual average temperature and diminished rainfall would decrease the productivity of these forests, in terms of their ability to store carbon, and provide subsistence material.
- It also leads to impoverishment of areas experiencing rainfall reduction in the driest quarter of the year and a rise in seasonal temperature reflected in reduced plant species diversity
- By some estimates, the Ghats have shrunk by 16% over the past century, and just one region, Papikonda National Park (Andhra Pradesh), lost about 650 sq. km. in two decades from 1991.
Measures to be taken
- Protecting the Eastern Ghats is an ecological imperative
- Schemes for restoration of forest peripheries through indigenous plant and tree species must be pursued
- Relieving the pressure on forests can be done through policies that reduce extraction of scarce resources and incentivise settled agriculture.
- India should fulfil its commitments under the Paris Agreement to create an additional carbon sink of 2.5 to 3 billion tonnes through enhanced forest and tree cover.
Improving tree cover nationally is certain to confer multiple benefits, including modulation of the monsoon, improved air quality and wider spaces for biodiversity to persist. Given the multiple role Eastern Ghats play, it is necessary that government take necessary steps to preserve it.