“The more clearly we can focus our attention on the wonders and realities of the universe about us, the less taste we shall have for destruction.” ~ Rachel Carson
Ever wondered how it feels when the population around you is drastically shrinking – a scenario where the people you know going down in numbers and with each passing day you are being increasingly isolated. No, I’m not talking of a war zone. It is a normal day of your life. But with each passing day, changes occur; and before you know it, you are striving for your survival and your hopes are at nadir!
This is what the forests across the world is facing for quite some time now. And I am voicing my words on behalf of the Shola forest.
Western Ghats, stretching across the west coast of India is a mountain chain older than the Himalayas. It is one of the worlds eight ‘hottest hotspots’. The reason behind this recognition is its unique influence on largescale biophysical and ecological process over entire Indian peninsula. In simple words, the Western Ghats play an immense role in the Indian monsoon weather pattern, making it one of the best example of the tropical monsoon system of our Mother Earth. This is apart from the exceptionally high bio diversity and endemism.
If I were to broadly point out the location of the Shola forest in the Western Ghats, I would say it is found all along the upper reaches of Western Ghats, at an altitude above 1500 m. There are texts that claim that Shola is limited to southern portion of the Western Ghats. This makes sense as only 2 out of the 31 peaks that are higher than 1500 m are situated in Maharashtra. The remaining are spread across Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka – majority of them Kerala and Karnataka. Interestingly, Shola originated from the Tamil word ‘Sholai’ which is translated as cold grove. This is because they are characterized by undulating grassland patches scattered with thickets of stunted evergreen tree species, which is home to a host of endemic and endangered plants and animals. What makes them even more important is they are the reason that majority of the human population of South India receives water even during the scorching summers. Sholas are also known to be natural sponges – collecting the rain water during the monsoons and release it slowly throughout the year. Shola forests are known to act as Thermostats – with a constant 15-20 degree Celsius year round. But the temperature in the adjoining grassland can vary from 0-40 degree Celsius.
Sadly, all the above mentioned facts about the glorious Shola forests can now be claimed only on paper. Like the rest of green world, Shola forest is being deteriorated exponentially with each passing day. The endemic species are either on the verge of extinction or are being classified as endangered. Either ways, it is not good news. Shola forest succumbed to being endangered when man realized that the climate and the location is optimum for the growth of various spices, tea and medicinal plants. This led to large level deforestation. Another factor is the stunted trees of the Shola Forest, as it has little or no timber value. Agriculture bought human settlers and thus began further depletion. The scope for tourism only added to the woes of the Shola forest.
The good Samaritans of the earth decided to give a ray of hope for the dying Shola Forest. Various people have come forward to restore the Shola forest in the areas where it has been destroyed. Various trusts are formed in order to buy back the plantation land from the various estates to bring back the stunted evergreen forest.
We, at Blackberry Hills are also working towards creating a Shola Forest in the limited piece of land we have. Initially a Blackberry Estate, we have begun planting, carefully selecting the various flora that belongs to the one and only Shola Forest.
After all, if Mother Nature never cooperated, humans would have been a fiction!