Western Ghats

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The Western Ghats are rich in flora and fauna. They are also called the Sahyadri Hills. 

It is called the ‘Sahya Parvatham’ in the state of Kerala. 

The Konkan Coast is the northern portion of the slender coastal plain which lies between the Western Ghats and the Arabian Sea. While the central portion is referred to as Kanara, the southern portion is described as the Malabar region or the Malabar coast. 

The foothill region towards the eastern side of Western Ghats primarily in Maharashtra is called ‘Desh’. Malanadu is the eastern foothills of central Karnataka. In the state of Tamil Nadu, it is referred to as Nilgiri malai. 

The Western Ghats is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Owing to its high level of biological diversity and endemism, it is considered as one of the eight hotspots of biological diversity on our planet. 


The down warping of a part of land into the Arabian Sea created Block Mountains – the Western Ghats. They are not actually true mountains, rather a faulted edge of the Deccan Plateau.

Main rocks found in the region include basalt, charnockites, granite gneisses and metamorphic gneisses. Occasionally we can find crystalline limestone, iron ore and dolerites as well.


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The Western Ghats ranges from the Satpura Range in the north and end at Kanyakumari. It has its presence in the states of Goa, Maharashtra, Kerala, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu.

It is basically a chain of mountains which runs parallel to our country’s western coast, roughly 30-50 km inland.

They cover a total area of around 140,000 km² in approximately a 1,600 km long stretch.

Mountain Ranges

The Niligiri ranges meet Servarayan range and Tirumala range located farther east, connecting the Western Ghats to the Eastern Ghats.

The highest peak in the Western Ghats is the peak of Anamudi situated in Kerala. It is regarded as the highest peak in India outside the Himalayas.

The Lonavala-Khandala, Mahabaleshwar, and Kodagu are some of the famous hill stations.


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Periyar, Bharathapuzha and Sharavathi are among the rivers which originate in the Western Ghats and flow towards west. They are fast-moving rivers, owing to the short distance traveled and the steeper gradient.

Production of hydroelectricity is prominent in the Western Ghats.

Godavari, Krishna and Kaveri are the three major rivers which originate in Western Ghats and flow towards east. Tributary rivers such as Tunga, Bhadra and Kabini also flow in the same direction.

The east flowing rivers are rather slow paced.

Climate and Vegetation

Home to several rare plants and animals, the western ghats is covered predominantly by non-equatorial tropical evergreen forests. The rich forest ecosystems of the region highly influence the Indian monsoon conditions.

They act as a barrier which intercepts the rain-carrying monsoon winds, blowing from the south-west during late summer.

Rosewood, Mahogany and Cedar are found predominantly in the western slopes. They remain green throughout the year.    

The eastern slopes of the Western Ghats consist of deciduous forests inhabiting Teak, Sal, and Sandalwood trees.


The Nilgiri marten, Indian brown mongoose, and leopard cat are among the small carnivores found in the forests of the Western Ghats.

Several species are endemic including the Nilgiri Tahr and the Lion-tailed Macaque.

A minimum of 325 globally threatened/IUCN Red Data List species live in the Western Ghats.

This includes around 229 plant species, 31 mammal species, 15 bird species, 43 amphibian species, 5 reptile species and 1 fish species.

Protected Areas

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The Western Ghats has two biosphere reserves and 13 National parks. Several wildlife sanctuaries and reserve forests are also found in the western ghats.

The Nilgiri biosphere reserve is a heavily protected area in the Western Ghats. It includes the forests of Nagarahole, the Bandipur National Park and the Mudumalai National Park.

The Silent Valley National Park located in Kerala is an example for the virgin tropical evergreen forest found in India.



The Western Ghats feeds several perennial rivers of peninsular India. This includes major rivers including the Godavari, Krishna, and the Kaveri.

Most of the South Indian states receive the majority of their water supply from rivers originating in the Western Ghats.


The Western Ghats influences the Indian monsoon patterns to a great extent and is responsible for the warm tropical climate of the region.

The Ghats function as a key barrier for intercepting the rain-laden monsoon winds.

The Western Ghats play an important role in sequestration of carbon dioxide and hence regulates climate change.

It is estimated that the western ghats neutralize around 4 million tonnes of carbon every year.


Western Ghats has its geographical extension in the wet zone of Sri Lanka as well.

It is rich in plant and animal diversity and endemicity.


Iron, manganese and bauxite ores are found in abundance in the Western Ghats.

Western Ghats forests are a major source of timber. They support several industries including paper, plywood,and matchwood industries.

Pepper and cardamom plantations are found across the region.

Other major plantations in the western ghats include tea, coffee, oil palm and rubber plantations.

Indigenous Tribes

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The Western Ghats is home to several indIgenous tribes.

It also inhabits communities like Gowlis, Kunbis, Halakki Vakkala, and Kulvadi Marathi. They sustain collecting non-timber forest produce (NTFP).

Tourism and Pilgrimage

Ooty and Thekkady are few of the major tourist centers in western ghats.

Sabarimalai in Kerala, and Mahabaleshwar in Maharashtra are among the major pilgrimage centers.


Mining: Mining activities have been on the rise in states like Goa. It causes serious 

environmental damage and social disruption. Sand mining is prominent in Kerala.

Unsustainable mining leads to landslides, damages water sources and affects agriculture.

Use of Forest Produce: Human populations living adjacent to protected areas in the Western Ghats depend largely on NTFPs for their daily needs. Sustainability of NTFP is a critical issue.

Grazing: Livestock grazing is causing habitat degradation across the Western Ghats.

Human-wildlife Conflict: Human-wildlife conflicts are a common occurrence in the ghats.

Hunting: Illegal hunting is prevalent across Western Ghats.

Hunters use guns and also deploy traditional methods like poisoning and trapping.Wild meat is widely consumed by them.

Plantations: They are dominated by tea, coffee, rubber and monocultures of several other species.

Coffee plantations were established by the Britishers in Kodagu in 1854.

Over the years, cash crop plantations displaced large patches of natural forests throughout the Western Ghats.

Encroachments: Human settlements/traditional rights of land ownership within and outside protected areas of Western Ghats have always posed a significant threat.

Hydropower Projects: Large dams in the region have created environmental and social disruption.

Deforestation: Conversion of forest lands for agricultural purposes and or for commercial purposes like tourism have affected the biodiversity adversely.

Climate Change: Extensive exploitation of the land resources and deforestation have affected the duration and intensity of rainfalls.

The climate change in Western Ghats has led to natural disasters like floods.

Conservation Efforts

Committees formed for the conservation and protection of Western Ghats:

  • Gadgil Committee (2011)    
  • Kasturirangan Committee (2013)

According to the Kasturirangan committee report, it was decided to bring 37 percent of the total area of Western Ghats under ESA and a complete ban was imposed on mining and quarrying in the region.

Let’s put our best efforts in protecting the valuable ecosystem of the Western Ghats!

Check your knowledge

   Answer) Periyar, Bharathapuzha and Godavari.

 Answer) Gadgil Committee (2011) and Kasturirangan Committee (2013).

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