Thursday, October 4, 2012

'world heritage site' - boon or bane?

I guess it was not a wise decision for me to visit the Kas plateau this year. That I wanted a good break from my routine and also it was my wish to show Soujanya this magical wonder once in her lifetime, made me visit the place. It was a good sign enough when I got to know that the hotel room rates in Satara were almost doubled compared to last year; I could sense that something is seriously going wrong with the place. But I had made up my mind to visit anyway. 

I had not realized until I reached Satara that Kas plateau is one among the 39 UNESCO World Heritage Sites of Western Ghats. And no wonder the place was overly crowded and highly commercialized. There are some significant changes/developments in and around the plateau compared to my last year's visit. The purpose of this post is to highlight those changes so that people are aware of what is happening and accordingly take decisions to visit the place or not. 

Plateau, after getting the 'world heritage site' tag, has lost its charm.
  1. Its fenced everywhere making the plateau look ugly. 
  2. More and more people visit the plateau. I think number of people will outnumber the flowers very soon.
  3. Too many restaurants and commercial vendors have taken space around the plateau. 
  4. There are many parking and resting areas.
  5. People are allowed to go over the plateau (towards the north side) and they literally go over the flowers. 
  6. There were 2 shops at the kas lake last year, this year there are 20+ shops. 
  7. They are trying to increase the water level of the kas lake by heightening the dam wall towards the west. And hence leading to the death of plenty of flora. 
  8. Many plants that I had seen during my previous visit have disappeared. 
  9. Near the lake they are trying to build something (may be parking area) and that has flattened many areas and many Utricularia/Eriocaulon plant habitat. They have dumped many truck loads of mud everywhere to create a parking area. 
  10. And around the lake there is no place where you cannot spot a plastic cover/bottle. 
Flip side:
  1. More forest guards to protect the place.
  2. There is an entry fee to the plateau (10 rs per person and 50 rs per vehicle parking).
  3. They do not allow vehicles to go over the plateau during the weekends. There is a parking space created much before (3km) the plateau and a bus to drop off people and pick them up from there. 
  4. Its all fenced, people cannot go over all the places except for designated places.
  5. People are fined 500 rs if they stop their vehicle over the plateau. (But some crazy people park their vehicles just after the plateau and walk back.)
  6. Entry towards Mahabaleswar road is completely blocked for vehicles. People can only walk on the road. 
  7. Except for the fence, the southern side of the plateau is beautiful and not one person can go over it. 
  8. 100 rs fine (is what I heard) if people pluck any flower or plant. 
  9. They have created fenced paths for people to walk around at some places. 
  10. There is a separate parking area created much before the lake and they take parking fee for the same. They try not to allow vehicles to the lake during weekends.
I do not know how it looks for those who are visiting the plateau for the first time; but for those regular visitors it looks sad. It is very disappointing to see all those developments over the plateau and there by losing its charm. I do not know if the 'world heritage site' tag is a boon or bane for this place; but it is very much evident that the magical landscape is getting transformed itself into a commercial tourist destination. 

Fenced landscapes

Fenced landscapes

Fenced landscapes. They are Impatiens, I am impatient!
Every tree has its share. This is the common sight around the kas lake

Vendor stalls right under the woods. I had seen many plants of Habenaria digitata orchid right here. They are gone.
SOS! Tourist people around Kas. This picture was taken at Thosegar waterfall.

Many vendors at the kas lake. Significantly tripled compared to last year.

So, that's the scene around the magical kas plateau after getting the 'world heritage site' tag. If you do go there by mistake, all I can ask you to do is to be responsible. 

(C) Srikanth Parthasarathy


Sudhi said...

This is the reason many people opposed the 'world heritage site' tag for Western Ghats, but there was nobody to listen.

Manjunath Byadigere said...

This is really sad Srik...

The 'world heritage site' tag is becoming more political each day.

But to destroy the landscape with fences seems idiotic to me. It shows our country's/peoples understanding towards nature I believe. It is very tragic to see the photographs. Last year the same place and those photographs had motivated and inspired me.
Now I'm not sure if I will visit this place anytime.