The Eastern Ghats are a range of old, eroded mountains, completely worn out in certain stretches, that run along the eastern coast of India, from Odisha in the north to Tamil Nadu in the south. They might not match the Himalayas or the Western Ghats but they are certainly a region rich in terms of biodiversity. Of late, a number of new plant and animal species (thought to be members of other, more widely distributed species in Peninsular India) have been discovered in these ranges. Unlike the Western Ghats, the Eastern Ghats are cut up by large rivers flowing eastwards into the Bay of Bengal. While doing so, they have carved out some fantastic gorges in the Ghats.  These include the likes of the Mahanadi, the Godavari, the Krishna and the Penner.

The northern margins of the Eastern Ghats lie in central Odisha, around the basin of the Mahanadi River. The southernmost extension of the range are the Sirumalai Hills of western Tamil Nadu. Once upon a time, these Ghats were swathed by dense tropical forest. However, with the passage of time and the increase in population, they have, like all other forests in South Asia, come under intense pressure. Felling of trees for cultivation and firewood, unchecked exploitation of plants for medicinal purposes, poaching and habitat destruction have pushed many of the species found here to the edge. The state and central governments have tried preserving this unique wilderness by establishing national parks. This is very important as the range happens to be the only refuge for a considerable number of endemics. I have already discussed one of them, the Gooty Tarantula (Poecilotheria metallica), in one of the earlier posts.

Image Attribution: I took this photo on a trip along with my friends deep inside the Nallamala (‘Black Hills’; Nalla being black, and Mala being hills, in Telugu) forests. The Nallamala are part of the Eastern Ghats and one can find evidence of millions of years of erosion cutting away at the rocks that make up the range. There are gorges, caverns, cliffs, waterfalls, gullies, pools, boulders and overhangs, all overgrown with trees, creepers, bamboo and grass. The forests are home to a rich collection of wild plants and animals (which the govt. has tried protecting by creating numerous nature reserves). Conservationists from the region have formed groups to ensure that the natural beauty of these hills is preserved, approaching even the United Nations for support.

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