Written by Anoushka Gahilot
A group of nature enthusiasts in Pune is conducting a survey of the ecology and biodiversity of the Mahabaleshwar-Panchgani region in Satara. The group, which calls itself Research and Action in Natural Wealth Administration (RANWA), announced that they are conducting an 18-month-long survey at a press conference at Patrakar Bhavan on June 29.
The project aims to create baseline data about the local biodiversity and conduct an ecological survey by consulting experts in the biodiversity field. The project team intends to use this information to create a comprehensive document that could be used to further generate awareness about natural heritage, its protection and conservation among local residents and tourists.
The scenic hill station of Mahabaleshwar, along with Panchgani in western India, comprising an extensive plateau of evergreen forest in a unique, crest-line location along with rich flora and fauna and an invigorating climate, makes it a major biodiversity hotspot of the northern Western Ghats.
In 2001, due to its geographical, ecological and biological importance, this region was declared “ecologically sensitive” by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change.
This region comprises the entire area within the boundaries of Mahabaleshwar taluka and the six villages of the Jaoli taluka of Satara District.
The people who form this group have expertise in ecologically important taxa or groups, including mammals, birds, amphibians, reptiles, freshwater fish, bees, aquatic insects, dragonflies, damselflies, ant fauna, herbaceous flora, woody plants and butterflies.
Dr Sanjeev Nalavade, principle investigator of the group, said, “This popular hill station of western India attracts a large number of people almost throughout the year. In 2016, at least 20 lakh tourists and 3.3 lakh vehicles visited this region. This causes tremendous pressure on the natural resources. In fact, many plant and animal species are disappearing or are on the decline. Since no major attempt has been made so far to understand and analyse the positive impacts of the ESR status on the biodiversity of the region, the present study of RANWA aims to build a comprehensive picture of biodiversity and a platform for future ecological studies.”
The team has urged people to share their experiences with wildlife and flora around the region.
Established in 1993, RANWA has been involved in research, surveys, education and action-oriented programmes about environment. It has conducted research in forest ecology of the Western Ghats, sacred forest documentation, biodiversity and plantation drives with the help of student volunteers. It is also associated with agencies like the State Forest Department and the Maharashtra State Horticultural and Medicinal Plant Board.