Thursday, December 31, 2009

Threat to Herpetofaunal diversity if Mahdei is diverted.

Herpetologist Nirmal Kulkarni has expressed concern and hopes that the Goa Government will seek for an EIA (environment impact assessment) on the forests of the Mahdei Wildlife sanctuary after its waters are diverted by Karnataka state to the Mahdei Water Tribunal as soon as it is appointed.
The area of the Mahdei Wildlife sanctuary that would be irrevocably affected would include the forests surrounding the village of Surla in Sattari taluka and the border forests of Chorla Ghats. These forests, according to Nirmal Kulkarni, are home to several endangered species of Herpetofauna that are data deficient and threatened due to habitat fragmentation and alteration.
Some of these lesser-known endemic species of snakes documented in the region till date include the Malabar Pit Viper (Trimeresurus malabaricus), Pied Belly Shieldtail snake( Melanophidium punctatum), Olive Forest Snake (Rhabdops olivaceus), Striped Coral Snake (Calliophis melanrus nigrescens) Beddome’s keelback (Amphiesma beddomei) and Montane Trinket snake amongst others.
Amongst lizards, the Draco of Flying Lizard (Draco dussumieri), goan day Gecko (Cnemaspis goaensis), Prashad’s Gecko ( Hemidactylus prashadi) and Banded Ground gecko ( Hemidactylus albofasciatus), all endemic and uncommon species are found in the area.
With regards to amphibians, the Beddome’s Indian frog (Indirana beddomei), Maharashtra Bush frog (Philautus bombayensis), Marbled Ramanella (Ramanella moromorata), Malabar Gliding frog (Rhacophorus malabaricus) are some of the endemic species documented from the area
Some species like the Mahdei caecilian, described from this region are highly endemic and found only in this region till date. It is a species of legless amphibian of which very little is known of and needs special conservation measures. Besides which the Goan caecilian, another rare and recently described species has been reported in the forests that are part of this region.
It is an urgent need to assess the impacts of diversion of water to these forests of the Mahdei Wildlife sanctuary and its surrounding forests as these waters nurture and sustain this region of high endemism and create niche specialized habitats that are essential for the survival of these species of Herpetofauna.
A demand for an Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) to study and gauge the impacts on wildlife of the sanctuary should be urgently placed as soon as the Mahdei Tribunal is formally announced with its committee of members.
Any form of alteration to the habitats, including loss of ground water and drying of streams and riverine vegetation due to change in course of water or restricted flow could spell disaster to the biodiversity of this region especially with regards to reptiles and amphibians as their life cycle and breeding biology depends on the rivulets and streams of the Mahdei river.
I appeal to the Goa Government to ensure that the course of the Mhadei rive that supports and sustains the forests of the Mahdei Wildlife sanctuary be protected and not allowed to be diverted under any circumstance as this will cause irreversible long term damage to the delicate ecology of the region.
A strong case to this case has to be made to the Mhadei Tribunal underlining the need for conservation of the Mahdei Wildlife sanctuary and its ensuring its water security as this is also directly related to the water security of the people of Sattari and Bicholim talukas of Goa state besides the forests of the Mahdei Wildlife sanctuary.