Kas flora under stress from excess footfalls, expert claims

Noting that an influx of tourists will lead to a deep impact on the flowering at Kas plateau, member of the Kas Conservation Committee and professor at Satara’s Lal Bahadur Shastri College Shekhar Mohite stated that limiting the footfall as well as curbing contamination via external factors will help preserve the UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Mohite, who recently conducted a census of the flower population at Kas plateau, said, “Mass tourism is a major problem in this region. As many as 50,000 people flock to the flowering area over a two-day weekend. However, the carrying capacity here is only about 3,000 to 5,000 people, per day.While the forest department limits entry through online applications, many end up on the spot leading to larger-than-ex pected numbers.“

Since only Block C, or 20% of the plateau, is open to visitors, a heavy concentration proves overwhelming for the flowering plants. Many of the plants are damaged by tramp ling, he said.

Another major issue is area allotted for vehicle parking. “The parking area is located beyond the plateau, meaning that all tourist vehicles pass through the road along Kas before being parked,“ Mohite explained. In addition, he said that the traffic for villages including Bamnodi, Pipli as well as the Koyna backwaters also passes through the area, which needs to be diverted to an alternative route through Ghatai.

However, with the forest department team as well as the joint forest committee numbering only 30-odd members, tourists cannot be handled easily. “Handling traffic on the route while managing tourists is too much to ask for from such a small team. But there is no one else to do it. In addition, 40% of the plateau is privately-owned, where there are no restrictions on the number of visitors,“ Mohite informed.

The expert advised tourists not to throng the place only on weekends but visit over weekdays as well. “This will ensure limited numbers on all days,“ he said. These and other steps have been proposed to maintain the beauty of the area before the forest department. According to the census report, there are 411 different flora species found at Kas, of which 47 are endangered or face a threat. Almost a quarter of the species are endemic to the Western Ghats.

“These rare plants are the reason why Kas plateau has been awarded the UNESCO World Heritage Site status. If proper steps are not taken, this status will be lost following the depletion of rich and diverse flora population found here,“ Mohite warned.

(With inputs from Atul Deshpande)

Source : TOI