The Western Ghats or Sahyadri Mountains are a series of peaks that stretch across the Indian states of Tamil, Kerala, Nadu, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Gujarat, and Goa. The mountain range parallels the west coast of the Indian Peninsula for 990 miles covers 62,000 sq mi. It is one of the longest mountain ranges on the Asian continent. The mountains begin near the town of Songadh, Gujarat and stretch southwards before terminating at Swamithope, in southern India. Anamudi (8,842 ft) is the highest peak in the Western Ghats. The mountains were formed earlier than the Himalaya by the erosion of the Deccan Plateau after the breakup of Gondwana.
Water Catchment Area
The Western Ghats form complex drainage systems that drain 40% of India. The mountain range gives rise to major river systems including Krishna, Thamiraparani, Godavari, Tungabhadra, and Kaveri. The rivers flow to the east because of the gradient of the terrain and carry vast volumes of water during the heavy rains. There are about fifty major dams most of which are used for irrigation and hydroelectric generation.
The climate of the Western Ghats varies with attitude and the distance from the equator. The base of the mountains experience a tropical and humid climate while elevations of above 4,921 ft in the north and 6,562ft in the south experience a temperate climate. Between June and September, the mountains force the moisture-laden monsoon winds to rise and thus depositing heavy rainfall on the windward side. The leeward side of the mountains receives minimal rainfall of up to 39 inches. The Western Ghats influence the weather in the Indian subcontinent by intercepting the moisture-laden winds from the south-west during summer.
The Western Ghats are among the world’s ten biodiversity hotspots with over 9,000 species of plants and 7,000 species of animals. UNESCO classifies it as a World Heritage Site due to the biodiversity of the fauna and flora, many of which are native species. The northern section of the mountain range consists of moist deciduous forests at lower elevations and montane rain forests at elevations of above 3,300ft. The southern section is wetter and provides a habitat for more plants and animals. In 1988, the entire mountain range was declared an ecological hotspot to deter development and conserve the natural environment. The government established protected areas including wildlife sanctuaries, national parks, biosphere reserves, and reserve forests.