The Western Ghats, also sometimes known as the Sahyadri Mountains, is a mountain range along the western side of India. Covering 150,000 square kilometres, the Western Ghats stretch through the states: Gujarat, Goa, Maharashtra, Kerala, Karnataka, and Tamil Nadu. The Ghats, also known as Sahyadri in Maharashtra, has 5,000 species of flowering plants, 139 mammal species, 508 bird species, and 179 amphibian species. At least 325 of these are globally threatened species, such as the Asian elephant and the tiger.
Its complex network of 22 rivers provides nearly 40 percent of India's water-catchment systems. UNESCO is due shortly to confer World Heritage status to the Western Ghats.
Industrial development has made a mockery of the protected status of southern Indian forests, which houses vast biodiversity and some of the finest examples of moist deciduous and tropical forests. In the last decade alone, the urban sprawl has reached these mountains, which have seen forests give way to more and more human settlements, as well as to a wide range of commercial activities.
For all these, the Western Ghats has not escaped the pressure of an ever-increasing population and the interest of business groups, which have built everything from mines to roads, to power plants across the region. Delhi-based environmental lawyer Ritwick Dutta, describes the destruction in the mountains here as "eco-disaster due to governance failure of an unparalleled nature. There is an urgency here to declare the area an ecologically sensitive zone".
A newly resurrected people's movement may yet reverse that trend. Save Western Ghats Movement in the 1980s, had involved over 20 local and regional people's movements that got together to march the length of the Western Ghats between November 1987 and February 1988.