Mission Possible: Saving Kaas

Sep 12, 2013, 06:07 IST | Gangadharan Menon

Maharashtra boasts of the ecologically rich Kaas plateau, which is akin to Uttaranchal's Valley of Flowers. Gangadharan Menon documents the efforts of select conservationists who are trying to sensitise villagers and tourists to preserve Kaas

Kaas is considered to be Maharashtra’s own Valley of Flowers. But unlike its namesake in the Himalayas which is accessible only after an arduous trek, Kaas is at an easily motorable distance. Located just 300 km from Mumbai, and a mere 40 km from Satara, it is this easy accessibility, that’s also been the bane of this floral heaven.

The Kaas
The Kaas plateau has over 850 varieties of flowering plants

And, it is in this context that the conservation efforts of people like Dr Sandeep Shrotri of Ranwata Society become extremely significant. Apart from getting Kaas included among the 39 World Natural Heritage Sites declared by UNESCO along the Western Ghats, he and his team are working day in and day out to conserve the place by sensitising the visitors and the villagers.

The Western Ghats are 1,600 km long, and run through six states from Gujarat to the peninsular tip of India, and is considered by geologists to be older than the Himalayas. It’s home to over 5,000 flowering plants, of which over 850 are found in Kaas alone. This makes it a botanist’s delight and a nature lover’s paradise.The environmental activists, through sheer tenacity, havesucceeded in getting many of their demands met, though theyare being implemented in phases (steps are mentioned below).

The plateau is a hotbed for insects. Pics/ Gangadharan Menon

It’s time to take a leaf out of this great initiative. Or at least a little, wild flower.

How to get there
The Kaas Plateau is 22 km from Satara in Maharashtra. August and September are good times to head there as the flowers bloom during that season.
>> By road, you can head to Satara. MSRTC buses head to the region.
>> The Plateau is 31 km from Satara Railway Station.

Steps to conserve the plateau
Some of the demands by the environmental activists are as follows:
>> Restricting the number of visitors, making it mandatory to register online prior to the visit.
>> Getting the four adjoining villages of Kaas, Ekiw, Atali and Kasani to refrain from setting fire to the grasslands and cutting trees and instead, use dead trees and dried branches as firewood. >Getting the village of Kasani that’s merely a km away to provide a parking lot for visitors.
>> Dividing Kaas into four blocks, and allowing access only to one square km in each block, thus, making the rest of the plateau off limits.
>> Channelising the money earned from visitors back to the villages to get LPG connections and smokeless chulhas.

List of Don’ts for visitors
>>Do not collect flowers and plants. They can grow and flower there, and nowhere else.
>>Do not tread on flowers.
>> Do not set fire to grass as that will destroy seeds of rare species, and small insects and animals.
>> Do not litter. Take back everything that you bring in. In short, leave this paradise exactly as you found it.

Time to pack your bags for...
Sudhagad trek

Nomadic Quest is all geared up for trekking up Sudhagad, a hill fort that combines scenic beauty and historic marvels at the same time. As old as the second century BC, this beautiful spot falls in the Raigad district that you can do justice to in a one-day trip itself. The excursion will include lunch as well.
On: September 15
Cost: Rs 1,320 per person
Log on to: www.thenomadicquest.com
Call: 24162488 / 9969669174

Crab fishing at aasrewadi
For enthusiasts and adventure junkies, crab fishing is definitely a novel concept. Hike up with Jumpstart Outdoors to rummage in the water bodies of Aasrewadi village. The highlight of the event is that you will get your hands dirty after sunset and before sunrise in rivers and paddy fields.
On: September 28 and 29
Cost: Rs 1,500 per person
Log on to: www.jumpstartoutdoors.com
Call: 9819726688 / 9619793983

Last shot at waterfall rappelling
Now that the rains are on the wane, it’s time to buckle strap foran advance waterfall rappelling bout at Siddhagad with Odati Adventures. A one-day trip, the adventure will involve a 100-ft waterfall or more boosted with less torrential waters that aid a better grip on the rocks.
On: September 15
Cost: Rs 1,750 per person
Log on to: www.odati.com
Call: 9769679802

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