About Western Ghats Development Programme
The Western Ghats (WG) or the Sahyadri is the majestic mountain range on the fringes of the west coast of India. It is one among the seven great mountain ranges in the country and is next only to the Himalayas. Its landscape is unique in terms of geology, biology and ecology. The mountain range extends over a distance of 1500-1600 km from Tapti river in the north to Kanyakumari in the south with an average elevation of more than 600 m and traverses through Six States viz. Gujarat, Maharashtra, Goa, Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu. Its geology and geomorphology coupled with high rainfall makes the Western Ghats as one of the most ecologically diversified landscapes. It is this ecological diversity of WG that supports: (i) a wide range of forest types ranging from tropical wet evergreen forests to grasslands, (ii) some 4000 species of flowering plants with high degree of endemism and (iii) rich fauna with endemism ranging from 11% to 78% among different groups. Consequently, Western Ghats constitutes not only one of the hotspots of biodiversity in the world, but also one among world’s eight hottest hotspots.
The Western Ghats is the home for about 50 million people belonging to the Six States of the Country. It is the source of water for the entire Peninsular India, and also influences the monsoons. The life supporting and biodiversity rich ecosystems of Western Ghats are threatened today due to habitat pressures.
The Western Ghat region of Kerala (Sahyadri) stretches over 450 km (28.12%) out of the total length of 1600 km and is spread over 80 Block Panchayats (out of 152 Blocks in the State) and 537 Grama Panchayats (out of the total of 999 Panchayats in the State). Thirty One out of the 63 Taluks in the State with a total geographical area of 28008 sq.km (72% of the total State area of 38863 sq.km.) and around 50% of the State’s population is in this region. The Western Ghats play an important role acting as barrier to southeast monsoons causing substantial rainfall over the hills (more than 3000 mm annually) and the “Sahyadri” gives birth to all the 44 rivers flowing through the State and sustains rich natural forests and minerals. This region is a treasure house of plants and animals and is declared as one of the bio diversity hot spots in the world.
The Western Ghats in Kerala have two major segments, a southern segment south of Palakkad Gap and a northern segment beyond the gap extending up to the Kodugu boundary. There are three sections of the eastern slopes of Western Ghats falling within Kerala viz. the Pambar- Chinnar basin, the Attappady Plateau drained by Bhavani, and the Wayanad section drained by Kabini. The Western Ghats that rise from low altitude of about 70 m MSL extend up to 2000m MSL on an average on the eastern boundary. Anamudy is the highest peak with an altitude of 2690m MSL.
Kerala is situated in the high rainfall humid tropical region. The total average annual rainfall is 3000 mm. There are two monsoon seasons: the South West monsoon (June to Sept) and the North East monsoon (Oct- Dec). January to February is the winter season and the summer months are March, April and May. The mean minimum temperature is 22-240C and the mean maximum temperature is 32-34 0C. During summer months the temperature is high leading to drying of surface soil and drought conditions. The relative humidity is in general high because of the extensive seacoast. The relative humidity during the monsoon season is about 85%. The very steep slopes facilitate quick run off of the rainfall resulting in poor ground water recharge. The velocity of the surface flow is very high as a result of the terrain characteristics. This high velocity of the surface flow causes soil displacement and movement. The surface soil gets washed away along with the running water.