The Western Ghats, also known as Sahyadri (Benevolent Mountains), are a mountain range that covers an area of 140,000 square kilometres (54,000 sq mi) in a stretch of 1,600 kilometres (990 mi) parallel to the western coast of the Indian peninsula, traversing the states of Kerala, TamilNadu, Karnataka, Goa, Maharashtra and Gujarat. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is one of the eight “hottest hot-spots” of biological diversity in the world. It is sometimes called the Great Escarpment of India. It contains a large proportion of the country’s flora and fauna, many of which are only found in India and nowhere else in the world. According to UNESCO, the Western Ghats are older than the Himalayas. They influence Indian monsoon weather patterns by intercepting the rain-laden monsoon winds that sweep in from the south-west during late summer. The range runs north to south along the western edge of the Deccan Plateau, and separates the plateau from a narrow coastal plain, called Konkan, along the Arabian Sea. A total of thirty-nine areas in the Western Ghats, including national parks, wildlife sanctuaries and reserve forests, were designated as world heritage sites in 2012 – twenty in Kerala, ten in Karnataka, five in Tamil Nadu and four in Maharashtra.
The range starts near the Songadh town of Gujarat, south of the Tapti river, and runs approximately 1,600 km (990 mi) through the states of Maharashtra, Goa, Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu ending at Marunthuvazh Malai, at Swamithope, near the southern tip of India. These hills cover 160,000 km2 (62,000 sq mi) and form the catchment area for complex riverine drainage systems that drain almost 40% of India. The Western Ghats block southwest monsoon winds from reaching the Deccan Plateau. The average elevation is around 1,200 m (3,900 ft).
The area is one of the world’s ten “hottest biodiversity hotspots” and has over 7,402 species of flowering plants, 1,814 species of non-flowering plants, 139 mammal species, 508 bird species, 179 amphibian species, 6,000 insects species and 290 freshwater fish species; it is likely that many undiscovered species live in the Western Ghats. At least 325 globally threatened species occur in the Western Ghats.
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