Friday, July 25, 2008

Chorla Ghats- a tragedy in the making.

It is perhaps one of the few motarable roads in Goa which starts from an altitude of about 70 meters above sea level and transcends to an altitude of 800 meters above sea level in a time span of just 30 minutes , offering breathtaking views of the Mahdei Wildlife Sanctuary and the Proposed Bhimgad Wildlife Sanctuary, a reservoir of unimaginable beauty and of course an array of life forms include mammals, birds, reptiles and not to forget a varied diversity of flowering plants that seem to bloom all throughout the year.

No. This is not a fragment of imagination. This is the Chorla Ghats, a an area of exquisite wilderness that interestingly spans across the three states of Goa, Karnataka and represents the ridges of the Western Ghats topography. With peaks like Vagheri, panji Dongar and Lasni Temb, Kukmi Temb commanding the landscapes, the Chorla Ghats is a nature lovers delight, or rather was a nature lovers delight if I may put it that way.

Not till a long while ago, this region as part of the Mhadei Wildlife sanctuary was a safe corridor for large mammals like the transit tigers from Dandeli and Anshi forests and avian wonders like the Great pied Hornbills, Black eagles and the Paradise Flycatchers were a common sight on an early morning drive through these forests. It was declared as an Important Bird Area by Birdlife International and was documented as one of the vital habitats of the Slender Loris, a rare primate which was reported from these parts.

But tragedy struck this panoramic region twice over, one with the commencement of the Mhadei Diversion project starting full swing in the Kankumbi area and thus giving a reason for large scale alteration of habitats in these forests. But while this work commenced, with the digging of canals and trenches, it is the upsurge in Heavy Traffic that has taken its toll on the wildlife in the Chorla Ghats.

With the illegal usage of this small road for the purpose of transportation of iron ore and Steel by mining companies and steel factories, the Chorla Ghats corridor is now burdened with the movement of over 200 plus trucks every single day, and has immediately produced drastic results on the ecology of the area.

The heavy trucks weighing often more than 30 tons and carrying mineral ore, metal and metal scrap trudge their way through these forests and have been responsible not only for road kills of lesser known fauna like civets, reptiles and even birdlife, they have contributed to a drastic rise in noise and dust pollution, that which has made sightings almost nil in these patches.

As far as I know this road is not meant to be for heavy commercial vehicles like mining trucks with loads and 10 tire lorries, and many believe that this is in fact a scheme of things to evade taxes (well that’s another story!) What I am single mindedly concerned about is the impacts this increase of traffic would have on the wildlife density and diversity in these parts that are already burdened with numerous other problems like monoculture plantations and poaching!

The small road that meandered its way is now repaired after a span of 4 years and even though many of the small bridges have weakened with the load of the illegal goods that are ferried across from one state to another, the authorities on both sides seem to be oblivious of the state of affairs in these parts

. While the Goan families that used this road to reach to Belgaum for their Marriage preparations have been reduced to a trickle, thanks to the rash and unsafe driving of heavy vehicles, the increase in heavy traffic is also having an effect on the agriculture produce in the village of Keri and the Cashew orchards that surround the Anjunem reservoir in a slow manner. The waters that the canals supply are now being used to wash trucks and are subjected to the industrial waste and ore being thrown in and around the canals that irrigate the villages of Keri, Parye and beyond.

That the cachment area of the Anjunem Reservoir is under immediate threat is not being realized by anybody for that matter, as when the wildlife gets affected, so will the tree cover. There are signs of degradation in many patches and no amount of human intervention would be able to revive what is lost in these forests of the Chorla Ghats. With the Surla River being threatened way ahead and the Ladkyacho falls being reduced year after year , the Haltar nallah on the verge of being lost to deforestation and the Mhadei project, the Chorla Ghats are doomed without any doubts. The call of the Slender would be silenced once and for all and the luminescent fungi would cease to glow come next June and July if matters remain the same and destruction continues unabated by one and all…

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