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Western Ghat Plateaus identified for conservation

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    Posted: 12 Jun 2012 at 11:19pm

Times of India PUNE: Fifteen rocky plateau sites across the Sahyadri-Konkan corridor that are rich in flora and fauna but are facing several threats will now be conserved and protected. Pune-based public charitable trust Biome Conservation Foundation has undertaken a project to look into conservation and management of these sites. The project is supported by the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund - Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment (CEPF-ATREE) Western Ghats small grants programme.

The one-year project involves 'networking and information support for conservation of rocky plateaus in the Sahyadri-Konkan corridor'. The aim is to set up a network of local organisations, information support and capacity building for monitoring, assessment and management of habitat and come up with conservation management guidelines for the sites.

As part of this project, a workshop was held in the city on Sunday. Scientists, NGOs, experts and students from several districts working on rocky plateaus participated in the workshop. Aparna Watve of Biome Conservation Foundation told TOI: "We undertook this project in February. The 15 identified sites are in Satara, Pune, Kohlapur and Nashik districts. These sites have been selected because local groups have already been working on conservation of these areas. Now, we will try to facilitate their work. Many of these groups are working in isolation. There was a need to bring them together to address the various issues of rocky plateaus, build a network and come up with steps for conservation of these rich biodiversity sites.''

In Maharashtra, rocky plateaus are found in and around Pachgani, Mahableshwar, Kas, Kolhapur, Amboli, Junnar, Nashik, Bhimashankar, etc. These sites are facing disturbance due to threats like wind farms, mining and increased tourism, Watve said.

"Most of the sites are outside the protected areas or on forest land and hence there is no protection of threatened species. Many endemic lichens, plants, shrimps, bats, amphibians and reptiles are restricted to the plateau habitats, and some of them are threatened. There are plants that are vulnerable and on the verge of extinction. Therefore, conservation of these sites that are ecologically sensitive habitats is important for,'' she said.

Watve said that the network members will visit these sites and assess the biodiversity there. A biodiversity profile of each site will be prepared that will include threats and suggest protection measures. The management guideline prepared for the sites will be shared with government departments and local authorities to formalize them as actionable norms for conservation of the sites,'' she added.

Prerna Agarwal, who is working on the project, highlighted that different rocky plateau sites have their own threats and so it has to be a site-specific conservation management plan. For example, she said Kas plateau in Satara district faces threat from tourism and Chalkhewadi in the same district faces threat from windmills, while plateaus in south Maharashtra faces threat from mining, among others.

Tourism in Kas plateau is insensitive and destructive. Visitors are not aware of the endemic or endangered plants that grow here. They pluck the plants and trample on the vegetation. There is a need for ecological assessment and monitoring of this important site, she added.

Edited by harshalmahajan - 12 Jun 2012 at 11:21pm
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