Planning a trip to the Kaas plateau? Here’s why there may be less blooms this year | travel | Hindustan Times
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Planning a trip to the Kaas plateau? Here’s why there may be less blooms this year

Officials are worried about lesser blooms at the Kaas plateau and are exploring the reasons behind it.

travel Updated: Jan 28, 2018 17:10 IST
Human negligence, possibly lit cigarettes, could have caused the twin fires that gutted a portion of the world famous plateau recently.
Human negligence, possibly lit cigarettes, could have caused the twin fires that gutted a portion of the world famous plateau recently. (Shutterstock)

Once a bed of colourful flora, the famous Kaas plateau in Maharashtra is now witnessing less blooms, worrying officials, tourists and nature lovers alike. The plateau, recognised by the UNESCO World Heritage Committee as a heritage site in 2012, is home to around 350 flowering plants, including some rare and endemic species.

With the flowering already going down, a couple of fire incidents last month in the area, causing damage to the flora at the site in Satara district, has now set off alarm bells for the administration. The state government has thus decided to take some measures, like guarding the place and inviting researchers to study why this picturesque site in the Western Ghats is losing its blooms, which were a big tourist attraction.

According to forest officials, human negligence, possibly lit cigarettes, could have caused the twin fires that gutted a portion of the world famous plateau recently. “The forest department, along with a joint management committee of forest officials and local villagers-turned-volunteers, has decided to take certain safety measures to avoid incidents which could endanger the flora of the Kaas plateau,” the range forest officer, Sachin Dombale, said.

The plateau does not have big trees or plants and is actually a grassland. (Courtesy: Lovell D’Souza)

He said those guarding the plateau have now been provided hand-held pressure water sprayers. “The plateau does not have big trees or plants. It is actually a grassland, so even if the grass catches fire, it can be doused with the help of these sprayers,” he said.

Earlier, six people used to guard the entire plateau of around 1,800 hectares. After the fire incident, 12 people are manning it in the day and six at night, he said. Now, visitors are frisked at the entry gate of the tourist site and are not allowed to carry inside combustible items like cigarettes, matchbox or lighters, he said.

Somnath Jadhav, president of the joint committee, said they have also started putting up “firebreaks” along the roadside. “For the firebreaks, we burn the vegetation and grass in five metres of area along the roadside, so even if someone throws a combustible object, there won’t be a fire,” he said.

However, due to unavailability of power supply in the forest area of the plateau, they have not been able to put up CCTVs for keeping watch. “But, we are now thinking of using solar panels to address the power issue, Jadhav said. He said the gram sabhas of five villages (the locals of which are part of the committee) have also decided to put forth their proposals to safeguard the plateau and conserve its biodiversity and flora.

One of the committee members said the state government should provide funds for proper maintenance of the site. “We have to depend on the fees collected from visitors during the season, which is only for two months (September and October), to pay for the maintenance and salaries of the people working to guard the place,” he said.

“We seek the government’s attention, cooperation and funds so that this plateau of flowers can be conserved,” he said. Jadhav said that for the last three to four years, the growth of some species of flowering plants on the plateau is on a decline, thereby calling for a study to find out its reason and restore the beauty of the place.

“We are now planning to write to various universities in Maharashtra to send some researchers and students of botany to study the reason behind this,” he said. “We are taking efforts to conserve the plateau, which is home to some rare, endemic and threatened species of flowering plants, as it would lead to an increase in the number tourists at the site,” he added.

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