Kaas plateau, popularly known as valley of flowers at Satara, 125 kms from Pune, is set to come alive by mid-September.
Due to good rains this year, the flowering is almost 50 per cent complete. Forest officials say flowers like impatiens, karvy, jambhli manjiri and sheetechi asva will be in full bloom. “Already, the tourist inflow has increased after bookings went online on August 26. To date, there have been over 5,000 visitors,” Anil Anjankar, deputy conservator of forests in Satara division, told the The Indian Express.
Kaas plateau has one of the largest concentration of endemic flowering plants – 70 per cent of flowers of Maharashtra are found here – which has given it the status of UNESCO natural world heritage site. Last year, the dry spell had played spoilsport as karvy, a rare purplish blue wild flower that blooms only once in eight years, did not have an abundant flowering. However, this year, karvy buds have already started blooming and will explode in a massive flowering by mid-September, forest officials said, citing almost 4000 mm rainfall this year.
Impatiens (Balsam lavi) and utricularia (Sheetechi Asva), pogostemon (jambhli manjiri) and other plants have already started flowering and the hills and slopes will soon be draped in sheets of yellows, purples, pinks and even whites, Anjankar said.
The vegetation on the plateau is mostly seasonal and grows in monsoon. Plants on Kaas plateau show distinct temporal changes with the onset and progress of monsoon. The peak of flowering occurs in September.
At least 850 types of wild flowers bloom during August-September every year in the Western Ghats (Sahyadri range). Last year, forest officials, environmentalists and tourists were disappointed to see that the valley of flowers was just getting a drizzle, because of which flowers bloomed but dried up soon.
“Still, we did get a tourist inflow and registered at least 3 lakh people visiting this valley of flowers,” Anjankar said.
Shrirang Shinde, Round Forest officer (Bamnoli) Kaas, said that karvy plant would come alive by this fortnight. “It was in 2008 that the plant had exploded in a mass flowering. We hope it will be a repeat this year,” he said.
Intensified security measures, 200 cases against offenders
With 3,000 tourists being allowed daily in different time slots – (7 am to 10 am , 10 am to 1 pm, 1 pm to 4 pm and 4 pm to 7 pm), the forest department has tied up with the Satara police for an intensified surveillance of this world heritage site. “As many as 200 cases have been filed against offenders for littering, hooliganism, drunk driving, riding triple seat on a bike and others,” Anjankar said.
Prerna Agarwal, Inlaks Ravi Sankaran fellow who has been studying the impact of tourism on Kaas for five years now, said a positive effort had been made towards conservation of biodiversity. Entry fees have been increased to control tourist numbers, besides deploying traffic police to control vehicular movement.
“However, as visitors we also need to be responsible, control our own actions and ensure there is no littering. These plants are really tiny and all are natural and wild. Hence only some trails have been opened,” she said.