I went on an expedition last Sunday to a well-known fort in the Sahyadris, the Lohagad, literally meaning Iron-fort. It is one of the few best preserved fortresses around this area, and attracts a lot of tourists to climb its fascinating ramparts. We had gone for this and another reason – to document as much biodiversity we can on the trek.
We reached the base of the fort much after the expected time, had a cup of chai and proceeded to conquer this big bully. There is another fort called Visapur to the east of Lohagad. One the same mountain is a cave system called Baja Caves. All the three locations are sought after by trekkers, but Lohagad… is a different case.
Friends of mine who have been to this fort several years ago remember the trek to be rather rough and the surroundings pristine. Since then it has changed drastically. The way up till the footsteps of the fort has been widened to contain a two way traffic. The surroundings are so badly damaged that only a few hardy plants including some invasive species such as Lantana grow here. But not all hope is lost, since the very core patches are still intact, harbouring an astounding diversity under every leaf.
|I am Iron Fort!|
|Vinchukata (Scorpion's tail)|
|Iphigenia indica fruiting|
|Ceropegia lawii and Adelocaryum malabaricum oblivious to the rush|
|Prosena sp. (probably siberita)|
An unidentified Hawkmoth that mimics a Bumblebee!
|A Red-vented Bulbul|
|Dense deciduous forests|
Fortunately, where there are ignorant people keen on destroying the fort, there are some good-meaning souls trying hard to keep this from happening. There are several individuals as well as organizations that conduct monthly drives to clean-up the forts. Some of the ones involved in cleaning Lohagad are: Jungle Lore, Mawla Group (Pune) and Maharashtra Fort Conservation. Thanks to them and their efforts we don’t see mountains of garbage atop the forts. But littering is not the only problem facing the fate of Lohagad. It is slowly being captured by commercialization:
|A very large road that leads to the base of the fort showing signs of construction (rather destruction)|