UNESCO team to visit plateau of flowers

"The UNESCO team is expected in the state Oct 21-25 to consider several proposals including sanction of world heritage status to Kaas Plateau," state's Principal Chief Conservator of Forests A.K. Joshi told IANS.

The Kaas Plateau, located 325 km south-east of Mumbai, is well-connected by roads from all major cities of the state.

There are over 300 species of flowers which bloom during the monsoons, painting the entire eight-square-km-long main plateau and the surrounding mountains in a riot of colours, especially between July-October, Joshi said.

Last month, the state and central governments approved the state forest department's 10-year action plan for Satara to preserve its rich bio-diversity not found anywhere on earth, Joshi said.

Joshi said the entire Western Ghats are full of rare and endangered species of flora and fauna, especially different types of reptiles, and urgent measures are needed to conserve these.

"Though Kaas Plateau has been known locally, in recent years, it has acquired world fame for the awesome transformation during the four-month-long monsoon," he explained.

However, pollution, besides unplanned development in the region are posing a serious threat to its very survival, said Dibhas Amonkar, a Mumbai naturalist.

"Last Sunday, when I went there with my family, there were over 1,000 vehicles on the approach route to the Kaas Plateau. The queue of vehicles on both sides was nearly eight km long and you have to walk up to view the main plateau," Dibhas lamented.

Dibhas said there were around 18 nature conservation groups in Satara district and it's time to save Kaas Plateau, or it will "disappear within the next three to five years".
Besides any national or international recognition to the region, Dibhas has suggested a ban on vehicles going right upto the plateau.

"Vehicles can be parked at a safer distance away. From there they can go to the plateau in bullock carts, just as the locals do. This will not only boost rural tourism but also give means of livelihood to the villagers," he said.

There are seven small villages on the plateau which should be included for development activities, so that the villagers could be deployed as custodians of the region, Dibhas said.

The unique bio-diversity of the Western Ghats and its fauna would be a subject of a national workshop being conducted at the Delhi University and the discussions would focus on a variety of issues, especially conservation and preservation of the natural wealth for future generations, Joshi said.

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