Western Ghats Rivers & Streams

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Ramganga river in Corbett National Park, Uttar Pradesh, India.
© WWF-Canon / Gerald S. CUBITT

About the Area

The Western Ghats run north to south for about 9,941 miles (1,600 km) and have peaks of many different heights up to 8,841 feet (2,695 m). The hill ranges of the Western Ghats, running from the river Tapti in the North to Kanyakumari in the South, stands as a great barrier between the West coast of India and the rest of the peninsula. This positioning influences rainfall patterns and the high precipitation of the Western slopes makes the Western Ghats biologically rich and geographically unique.

Steep canyons and countless small streams cut across the mountainsides that face west, but to the east there are gentle slopes and wide valleys. Several major rivers run either inland or toward the Bay of Bengal, including the Bhima, Godavari, Krishna, and Kaveri.

The small rivers and streams draining the old, isolated, and relatively stable Western Ghats host a highly endemic aquatic biota with over 100 fish, about 20 per cent of mollusc species, and 100 amphibian species endemic to this ecoregion.
Size:
158,000 sq. km (61,000 sq. miles)

Habitat type:

Small Rivers

Geographic Location:
Southwestern Asia: western India

Conservation Status:
Critical/Endangered
Local Species
Eighteen fish species in 6 families are recognised as threatened, including the Malabar batasio (Batasio travancoria), Peninsular hilltrout (Lepidopygopsis typus), 6 species in the genus Hypselobarbus, and Indian blind catfish (Horaglanis krishnai). 2 endemic genera of gastropods, Turbinicola and Cremnoconchus, also live here.
 / ©: WWF-Canon / Y.-J. REY-MILLET
Greylag goose (Anser anser).
© WWF-Canon / Y.-J. REY-MILLET

Featured species

Indian blind catfish (Horaglanis krishnai)

Its size is about 4.2 cm. It is found in wells. Migrates from one well to another through underground water channels. This fish has no externally visible eyes. Absence of eyes is brought about the degeneration of the optic lobes.

It is a depigmented and scaleless fish. It has a free, not enclosed, swim bladder. It has a bulbous stomach that helps store food and the ileo-sphincter helps retain the digested food to maximize absorption. The bones of the skull are firmly articulated.

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Threats
Urbanisation, construction of dams, water diversion projects, fish harvesting, conversion to agriculture (e.g., rubber plantations), deforestation and its consequent effects on water quality and flow regimes - pose the largest threats to freshwater systems in this ecoregion.
WWF’s work

Project: Conservation Planning for the Central Hill Landscape in the Southwestern Ghats
The two-year programme focuses on the Southwestern Ghats, India. This ecoregion and globally identified "hotspot" is acknowledged for the richness of biodiversity and endemism in the flora and fauna. However, large-scale conversion of pristine forest areas for commercial plantations, overexploitation of biological resources and other development in the region have rendered many species vulnerable to extinction.

The Forests and Biodiversity, Species Conservation and the Freshwater and Wetlands Divisions of WWF India will work in close coordination to facilitate policy dialogues with stakeholders and address the conservation issues of CHL- Central Hill Landscape.

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