Thursday, August 2, 2012

Nature India Guidelines when visiting Kaas Plateau, Satara

The Plateau of Flowers - Kaas
Satara, Maharashtra

Present Scenario, Tourism and Guidelines 

The United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), has recently included Kaas Plateau of flowers (near Satara, in Maharashtra) in the list of World Natural Heritage sites. It is one of the 39 recently declared sites of Natural heritage in Western Ghats. In recent years the popularity of Kaas Plateau, Satara has increased many folds and the increase in numbers of tourists have resulted in a direct or indirect impact on its bio-diversity.  The lack of proper guidelines and limited patrolling by the Forest Department is causing a tremendous stress to this fragile ecosystem.  Without any proper regulation and control, Kaas has unfortunately turned into a picnic spot, with the in-sensitive & rowdy tourists plucking and trampling flowers, parking vehicles on the plateau, littering garbage, picnicking and creating mess. .... This could lead to only 2 situations in the coming years... Either degradation of this amazing place or a complete ban on tourism and thereby losing on the opportunity to appreciate and tap the potential of this place and finally its conservation.... either of these situations are not ideal solutions..... Hence to reverse this, it is extremely important to advocate and implement responsible Eco-tourism.

In view of this, the Forest Dept. and some NGOs have decided to implement strict restrictions and fees from year 2012. While we strongly welcome this move, we would also like to bring to the notice that even before these restrictions,Nature India" ecotours have been advocating strict Guidelines from its inception on our every trip to wildlife areas (and not just the Kaas plateau), because we are committed towards a responsible ecotourism....Nature India has been educating, sensitizing and showing the wonders of Nature responsibly as we believe awareness is the 1st step towards conservation and prohibiting people from visiting these places might do more harm then good..... the well being of nature and its denizens have always being our 1st priority.

Some news on the restrictions and steps taken recently....

To help conserve this fragile habitat from degradation, it is very important for each of us to ensure discipline whenever we plan a visit to such places....Remember, each one of us are stakeholders in preserving our remaining natural places and cannot just push it on the authorities ....  While the government will surely come up with systematic regulations to regulate the influx of tourists on the plateau and while they, along with some local NGOs make their own efforts....  Nature India earnestly appeals people to follow the below mentioned guidelines and implement it when visiting Kaas Plateau individually or in groups:
  1. Always advocate “Nature First” .... there should not be any compromise on this. The wellbeing of Nature (flowers, birds, insects, mammals, reptiles, amphibians etc) should be the 1st priority, even if we are not able to see or photograph certain species.
  2. Respect the laws and rules set up by the competent authorities of that region (Forest Dept or NGOs) and follow the rules set up by them, irrespective of whether others follow it or not..... It is our responsibility to ensure that we do not break the rules and tell others not to do so. Kindly pay the required entry fees proactively and help to maintain the harmony.
  3. Do not pluck or trample any flowers. Remember, these flowering species grow in certain conditions like specific soil, altitude, moisture, wind etc. and are extremely vulnerable to the change in environment, they cannot be grown at our home or in other habitat..... and most importantly, it encourages other people to imitate you.
  4. Do not Drink, Smoke or consume any Narcotic like drugs while visiting such places. Please maintain the sanctity of the Plateau.... treat it like a sacred place.
  5. Park your vehicles only in the designated parking space allotted by the forest department, which is about 3 kms before or 2 km after the plateau. You will need to walk through the tar road to reach the plateau. We can surely do this much for this amazing yet fragile place.
  6. Do not spend too much time on the Kaas plateau.....there is more to see in the surrounding region (Kaas Ghat road, Thoseghar waterfall area, Sajjangad Fort, Chalkewadi windmills, Ajinkya Tara Fort, Pachgani table-land, Pasarni Ghat near Vai etc). These places also offer spectacular variety of species of flowers.
  7. While one cannot stop the urge to visit this wonderful place again and again. is always recommended to avoid visiting Kaas plateau consecutively, if you have already visited it once, thereby helping to decrease the pressure to manage it. Fortunately, we are blessed in Maharashtra with several other places with wonderful variety of flowers like many forts namely Purandar, Sinhgad, Pratapgad, Anjaneri, Harishchandragad, Panhala, Vishalgad, Vasota, Torna, Raigad, Rajmachi etc....and places like Malshej Ghat, Matheran, Mahabaleshwar, Amboli, Bhimashankar, Suryamal, Kasara Ghat, Varandh Ghat, Mulshi, hills around Belgaum and trimbakeshwar where one can find not just a wide variety of flowers, but also some rare ones.
  8. The “Tour operators” should not take more than 20-25 participants at a time, so that they can keep a strict vigil on their activities. Avoid taking large buses. Ensure that every participant follows the rules and guidelines and take moral responsibility of their activities. Before you start, make it clear that strict action will be taken if anyone disobeys.
  9. Do not carry any food or eatables on the Plateau and litter the area. Even if you take care to “not litter” the area, there are others who may get motivated to carry food items.
  10. Kaas Plateau is not a picnic spot. It is designated as one of the 39 nature heritage sites within Western Ghats by the UNESCO. It is extremely fragile biodiversity hotspot. Do not be selfish and make it a recreational area for your entertainment.
  11. If you are visiting with your family, then take responsibility that your family members follow these guidelines. Ensure that the children that you bring along should not scatter away and thereby trample the flower beds due to over-excitement.
  12. Photographers: While photographing flowers, the photographers are requested not to alter the surroundings or lie down to get desired shots. It may cause harm to more flowers. Preserving the flowers is more important than capturing a “prize winning” image.
  13. Botanists, Researchers & Academicians: We respect the need of research and study, however, we earnestly appeal to avoid collecting any specimens from this particular region when you are on a botany excursion without prior permission and supervision from the forest dept. You will appreciate that this region is already under multiple pressures, more-over your actions can be replicated un-knowingly by lay-persons / casual visitors here and can give them just the reason for an excuse to pluck the flowers.
  14. Appreciate that we do not require any facilities (Hotels, Restaurants etc) anywhere near such fragile ecosystem for the well-being of this place. Avoid using facilities of such places if at all they are present and discourage people from using them. Stay in Satara town instead.
  15. It will be a great service, if you could carry some of the garbage from the plateau, back with you to dispose off appropriately. Even though, it is a little effort, such acts will surely help manage the place well.
  16. While informing about Kaas plateau to more people or while sharing images or travelogues of the plateau on various social networking sites, please ensure that you also put a note on the do’s &  dont’s and the precautions for those who intend to visit.
  17. If possible proactively contribute “funds” to the right organizations which are taking efforts to conserve and manage this eco-sensitive heritage. Find innovative ways, how you can contribute towards the maintenance and conservation of Kaas plateau. Take out some time to interact with villages and school children to motivate and encourage them to preserve its biodiversity.
While we strongly believe that prohibiting people from visiting such places is not the solution..... we carry much more responsibility now to ensure that our visit to such places should not have a negative impact on the biodiversity of the region. Unfortunately, the fact is, that most people in India are insensitive towards Nature, probably due to ignorance or maybe due to lack of any guidelines..... If each of us follow the above regulations, then there is a hope that we might do due justice to this amazing place and show the world that people in India care for their natural heritages..... with such places, we also get an opportunity to sensitize more people towards flora and nature as a whole. If managed well, then this can certainly help to generate funds, not just for the conservation of this area, but also for the well-being of the villagers around and their sustainable development.

Instead of converting this place as an alternative hillstation for Mahabaleshwar (which we believe was the initial plan of some people, before it came in focus due to tourism), we would wish to see Kaas as an example of successful conservation story through responsible ecotourism, sensitive approach, better management and systematic research. We also believe, tourism, if done sensitively & sensibly, is part of the solution to the many conservation related challenges we face today and each one of us is a stakeholder in this...... Now the Onus is on all of us !!

Thanks & Regards,

Adesh Shivkar & Mandar Khadilkar
Nature India
Appreciate, Respect & Conserve

To know about our trips to Kaas plateau, please click here...

Have a look at this blog by our participants in Sept. 2012, to know how we conduct the tour (This was also published in the English daily newspaper "Mumbai Mirror").


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