The UNESCO has listed a total of 39 heritage spots all along the Western Ghats, of which Kerala takes credit to as many as 20 UNESCO heritage destinations, making Kerala an important eco sensitive destination. The decision to include the Western Ghats among the world heritage sites was taken in the World heritage meeting that was held on Jul 1st in St Petersburg.
Some of the destinations featured in this important heritage list include the forests that are spread along Chinnar, Thekkady, Chinnar, Eravikulam, Silent Valley, Attapadi, Pulmedu, Manavan chola, Pushpagiri and Kaalikavu. The report underscores the preservation of these eco sensitive spots.
Not many of us know that the Western Ghats that extends over 1600 Km is more ancient and bio diverse than the Himalayas. It is home to 5000 types of rare plants and over 140 mammals, 16 of which are seen only in this part in the whole world including the lion tailed macaques and the Nilgiri Tahr. Of the 179 types of reptiles seen here, 138 varieties are exclusive to the Western Ghats. There is a diverse avian population too in this region, many of which are facing the danger of extinction. Pollution, commercial activities , mining and deforestation are some of the reasons for the degradation of these fragile eco zones.
The heritage enlistment of the Western Ghats, will help in preventing the mining activities , which are now rampant in many places within the Western Ghats in Goa and Karnataka. It is our duty to protect these ancient natural wonders as we have only borrowed it from our forefathers to hand it over the future generations. Let us do our bit for the safe keep of these pristine spots , which are god given gifts for Kerala, the God’s own country’, which will go a long way in boosting the tourism potential too.
Kerala might initiate microchipping the sandal trees in the natural sandal wood forests at Marayur- the only one of its type in the State. The Forest Minister KB Ganesh Kumar informed the state assembly of the innovative plans that are being formulated to insert microchips in sandalwood trees at Marayur, to prevent wide spread plunder of these priceless trees.
Marayur is 42 km north of Munnar along the Udumalppetta route. Spreading over an area of 93 sq. km, the Marayur reserve forest is home to over 60,000 naturally grown sandalwood trees. Rampant smuggling of sandalwood has always been a cause of serious concern for the Government and the forest department. It is alarming to note that in just one year nearly 2,000 trees have been allegedly plundered. The thieves use state of the art mechanical saws, which can fell a tree in no time without being noticed, which has turned out to be the biggest challenge for the forest department officials in curbing the menace.
Sandalwood or Santalum album is valued for its fragrant heartwood, which is used for making perfumes, agarbathis, ayurvedic medicines and beauty products. Sandalwood oil, popularly known as ‘liquid gold’, is extracted from the roots and wood of sandalwood. Sandalwood is highly priced in both the National and International market.
Though microchipping wild animals have been used successfully in tracking their movements, it is too early to predict the feasibility of the idea of inserting chips in sandalwood trees. According to RRR Varma, principal chief conservator of forests, the basic idea is to use microchips to track the movement of the trees. In the event of any unusual movement of the trees, an alert will be sent to the control station, which will enable the forest guards to reach the spot immediately.
Bhoothathankettu dam site will be soon developed into the first adventure tourism spot in Ernakulam district. Plans are afoot to develop it into a perfect outdoor tourist destination with an aim to attract the youth for camping experiences and adventure sports. According to the district tourism promotion council, the project will be targetting techies mostly for conduct training camps. Night camping options and trekking trails will be developed as part of this adventure tourism initiative.
The project will also include a day trip starting at the Marine Drive, which would enable the tourists to experience various popular adventure sporting activities like trekking and kayaking. Located just eight kms north-east of Kothamangalam,Bhoothathankettu is a perfect choice for a quiet and tranquil holiday, however many people prefer to skip this spot due to its poor infrastructure and lack of transportation facilities. There are many leisure activities in Bhoothathankettu including jungle trails , boat rides, rock climbing and fishing . The initiative to make it a base camp for adventure sporting activities would surely give it its well desired place in the tourism map of Kerala. Indulge in the breathtaking beauty of the unexplored destination of Boothathankettu through these well captured snap shots in Sreesobhin’s gallery and we bet, it will become your favorite weekend hang out spot in Cochin .
Welcome to Parunthumpara, a virtually unexplored trekker’s haven, near Peerumade where you can chill out , indulge in a spell of adventure sports or soak up the breath taking views of the endless grass lands and valleys beneath. A perfect choice for family holidays and fun seekers alike, Parunthumpara is a hill station of considerable tourism potential .
Though Parunthumpara is only six km from Peerumade on National Highway 220, it has remained obscure and away from the mass tourism trails for long. Now it has evolved to be a favorite stopover for tourists who are on their way to Thekkady, who stop by to enjoy the spectacular views and to have some fun and adventure. On a clear day, the visitors can see a panoramic view of the Sabarimala forests from Parunthumpara and this makes it quite popular among the Sabarimala pilgrims who congregate here to witness the makarajyothi.
Easily accessible through the narrow ghat road from Kallar Junction, this hill station stands out for its sprawling grasslands where the families can enjoy a few quiet moments, away from the hustle and bustle of the city life. A perfect choice for those who wish to have a holiday off the beaten track and to explore the unseen and the unexplored beauty of the pristine forests around, Parunthumpara has been attracting a large number of domestic tourists during weekends.
Though the place is yet to leave its imprints in the tourism map of the district, this beautiful hill station of
Parunthumpara holds great promise for adventure sports.The District Tourism Promotion Council has chalked out plans to develop Parunthumpara as a hill station and a handy stopover destination for tourists who come from Kumarakom to Thekkady. If some basic facilities can be provided, Parunthumpara can be developed to be one of the most popular tourist spots in Kerala in the days to come.
It is celebration time for tiger enthusiasts in Kerala as the successful tiger conservation efforts have made Kerala one of the three states that has the greatest tiger density in the world. According to the latest tiger census India’s wild tiger population has grown by 12 per cent in the last four years, which put the number of big cats in the country at approximately 1,706.
The densely forested Western Ghats region that spreads along the three South Indian States of Tamilnadu, Kerala and Karnataka is home to over 533 tigers and continues to be the home of the maximum number of tigers. The Periyar tiger sanctuary and Parambikulam, also has recorded an addition of over 25 tigers, which is something we can be proud of. The reclusive animals of tigers are hard to spot and to ensure a precise head count of this elegant national animal of India, latest techniques like DNA mapping, camera traps and satellite images were employed.
As we pen this edition of tiger tales from the Karma Kerala desk, the mood is surely that of hope unlike the pall of gloom and despair that loomed over when we posted our first blog in the tiger series a year ago when the number of Indian tigers hit an all time low of just 1411. The social media like Face book and twitter have played an important role in giving resonance to the concern and anguish of wild life enthusiasts all over India.
Tiger occupancy areas shrunk from 9 million hectares to less than 7.5 million hectares over the last four years and to ensure a comeback of tigers, it is very essential to increase the forest cover and enhance the vigil against poachers. Mining is said to be the single largest threat to the tiger population as it destroys the habitat and the natural food supply of these predators. Around Thirty per cent of the tiger population lives in areas outside the government’s reserves, which makes conservation efforts complex and challenging.
The largest number of tigers lives in the entire Western Ghats area, which in itself is a testimony of the successful conservation efforts bearing fruits. Kerala can indeed feel proud of its successful tiger conservation efforts that has left its name in the hall of fame of wild life protection. The latest inputs from the tiger conservation front are indeed portraying a hopeful picture and the encouraging snippets compiled by the news desks all over India speak of a ray of hope at the end of the dark tunnel. The anxious moments are not yet fully blown over, and only concocted efforts will bring in permanent results that we all would like to see. So, let us all join our hands to make sure that the tigers continue to thrive in the forests of India to be our national pride and identity.
Elephants enjoy a special place in the profile of Kerala, a state that takes pride in its substantial elephant population in the wild. It is an inseparable part of all Kerala temple festivals and are revered though the living conditions and treatment meted out by the elephant owners are often often ghastly and disheartening.
Often tagged with richness and grandiose, elephants were considered as status symbols even in the past. Many Kerala homesteads had elephants and it is one of the few places on earth where a separate branch of medical system for elephants is in place. Based on Ayurveda, elephants are given rejuvenation therapies in the monsoon months of June- July just like its human masters and there are prescribed medications and treatments for many ailments of elephants,which are still being pursued in Kerala. These gentle giants share a wonderful rapport with man and are harmless except when they are not provoked or in seasonal musth.
With the Union Government declaring elephant as the national heritage animal, plans are being mooted for the gradual phasing-out of elephants from commercial captivity. As the first step, the elephant Task Force Report calls for a total ban on future acquisitions of elephants by agencies, institutions or individuals from others or from the wild. Necessary amendments will be made in the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, (WLPA), to ensure that no one can acquire an elephant. Owners cannot own the elephants but will be given ‘guardianship’ of the animal once the owners declare and register their elephants with complete details of the microchipped animals.
The report also has suggested the amendment of Section 39 of the WLPA, to ensure the inclusion of elephants in the definition of government property, including those in lawful possession of individuals and institutions. So, if all these proposals come into force, the elephant conservation campaigns will gain further momentum and would relieve the hapless animals from torture and slogging.
Recently I went on a weekend visit to the Hill Palace Museum in Tripunithura which lies about 12 Km from Ernakulam. It was really enjoyable and mind-blowing when you are with a group of friends who are ready to enjoy to the maximum.
We five explored the nook and corners of the Palace, buildings close-by and the forest behind it. At first we hurried to visit the Palace Museum where we found a long queue of visitors waiting their turn. So, the lady who keeps all the visitors’ footwear in racks asked us to visit rest of the things that do not need any restrictions and be back before the museum closes for the day. So, we hurried down to visit the Deer Park, where we found interesting herds of deer. And, then we found a path leading to the wilderness behind.
Travelling through the forest route that encircled the boundary of the property was really interesting and it was the thing we enjoyed the most. It is a rare opportunity to explore a little forest that lies so close to big Ernakulam city. It is said that the land surrounding the Hill Palace has rare medicinal plants. Lovers roaming inside the forest became an interesting topic for us and soon we were giggling away. It was fun swinging from the solid roots that hung from the big old trees like Tarzan. After a refreshing yet scary walk through the forest we went back for the Museum visit. This time there was no queue and we could easily get in.
To ensure high security, they confiscated our bags and mobile phones. It was interesting to see the things on display that were once part of the life of our ancestors. As we walked through long verandahs and stairs of the Palace, we looking over our shoulders to see if ‘Nagavalli‘ was following us (It was here the famous Malayalam film Manichitrathazhu starring Mohanlal, Suresh Gopi and Shobhana was shot. Most of the Malayalees know this).
The architecture of the time the palace is made is really amazing (Hill Palace was built in 1865 by the Maharaja Of Cochin using their personal wealth). The view from the palace’s balcony is really stunning. We can see the garden which is maintained and designed artistically, and the view of the present city beyond.
The museum displayed 14 categories of exhibits including murals, paintings, sculptures in stone and plaster of Paris, manuscripts, inscriptions, carvings etc. The collections displayed in the museum are mainly from the Cochin Royal Family. Some other exhibits are from Travancore Royal House, Paliam Devaswom and from the department of Archaeology. It has a gold crown embedded with precious stones and many valuable coins, ornaments, majestic beds and samples of epigraphy.
When the museum visit got over, we hurried out to see if anything was left unexplored. After taking a few snaps of ourselves in different poses, the last thing we enjoyed was taking a turn on a real swing (this time it was not tree roots). There were numerous other visitors including newly-weds, families with children and groups of friends, like us.
It was both enjoyable and informative to take a weekend trip to the Hill Palace, Tripunitura. If you have made plans to enjoy, get set go!
Mangrove Forests are lately in the news in Kerala since CPI (M) got involved with the establishment of a Mangrove theme park in Valapattanam of Kannur district. The theme park is now shut following a controversy. The Kerala Coastal Zone Management Ministry ordered its closure on the charges that it was functioning in violation of Coastal Regulatory Zone(CRZ).
CPI (M) is very keen on developing Kannur, don’t know whether their sole intention is development or is it a mere political agenda hidden behind it? Their first initiative was the Parassinikadavu Water Theme Park. The Mangrove Park is under the Pappinisseri Eco-Tourism Society in which CPI (M) Central Committy member E.P. Jayarajan serves as the advisor. The park is located in the 12 acres close to the Valapattanam Bridge and towards the east side of the Valappattanam River.
The park was beautified with a walk-way through the Mangroves, bright lamps that’ll make the night to look like a day, colourful water fountain, special zone for children’s entertainment, fish tanks, conference hall and small food huts. Bridges, two jetties and an observation tower in the river were also built along with it. The owners have already spend a sum of one crore for the park and is expecting 5 crores as expenditure in the next five years.
Although they have established the park saying that it was for the development and protection of Mangroves and the different species live in it, it’s clear that the park is in no way going to help it. Not only won’t the park help in the Mangroves protection but it can completely endanger the ecosystem of the living species here.
How mangrove forests help our environment?
Mangrove forests are naturally resilient, having withstood severe storms and changing tides for many millennia. Mangroves have specially adapted aerial and salt-filtering roots and salt-excreting leaves which enable them to occupy the saline wetlands where other plant life cannot survive.
- Mangroves’ protective buffer zone helps shield coastlines from storm damage and wave action, minimizing damage to property and losses of life from hurricanes and storms.
- Mangroves have been useful in treating effluent, as the plants absorb excess nitrates and phosphates, thereby preventing contamination of near-shore waters.
- Mangroves absorb carbon dioxide and store carbon in their sediments, thereby lessening the impacts of global warming; and help in the protection of associated marine ecosystems
- Sea grass beds and coral reefs depend on healthy mangroves to filter sediments and provide nursery grounds for resident species.
Mangrove Forests are largely facing deforestation. However, mangrove forests are treated as “wastelands,” or useless swamps. This mistaken view has made it easier to exploit mangrove forests as cheap and unprotected sources of land and water. Mangrove Forests were largely destroyed in the name of unsustainable developments like:
- Shrimp aquaculture
- Charcoal production and logging
- Oil exploration and extraction
- Urbanization and urban expansion
- Ports and roads
Continuing heavy loss of mangrove forests represents a real tragedy for our oceans and the extensive life-support systems mangroves engender. With climate change and sea level rising upon us, we must look to the mangroves to help turn the tides which these forests can do through their ability to control erosion by buffer against storms, and sequester huge amounts of carbon. Mangroves may in fact be one of our last defenses against the perils of climate change and global warming.
If the authorities stick on to the decision of the closure of the park, this may well contribute to the survival of our environment and in turn the species live inside it.
Periyar tiger Reserve in Thekkady, Kerala is one of the best managed tiger reserves in India that needs no formal introduction as a popular tourist destination for nature enthusiasts. The rich bio diversity and wild life and the pristine beauty of the area, which spreads over an area of 777 sq km attracts scores of visitors to Thekkady. Now Periyar is all set to undergo a massive expansion which would make it a hot contender for the position of the best eco tourist spot in Kerala, a distinction held by Gavi in Munnar for long.
Under this plan, 148 Sq KM of forest land that extends up to the Kakki hydel project at the east and the Annathode colony to the North, which belongs to the Kerala forest development corporation will become part of the Periyar tiger reserve. With this the tiger reserve will have a total area of 925 sq. km , which will go a long way in the tiger conservation efforts as well. With this, Gavi and the pachakkanam areas also will become part of the reserve though the eco tourist spot of Gavi might be excluded from the reserve.
The expansion of Periyar Tiger reserve will give further impetus to the tiger conservation efforts to make it one of the most successful stories in nature conservation. As per the latest figures, only 3000 tigers are left in the wild and it is indeed a race gainst the clock. If we need to protect this magnificient beast we have to oput in our best NOW as there will never be a second chance!
The Eco Toursim Project launched at Gavi by Kerala Forest Department, is an added advantage to the Kerala‘s tourism sector. The project is sure to draw more tourists, especially from European countries. It is mainly intended at nature lovers and adventure tourists. Gavi Eco Tourism package include elephant safaris and trekking in the deep jungles of Gavi near Munnar, which is otherwise not open to the public.
Gavi, recently have had a gradual increase in the tourists inflow since ‘Alistair International’, the world acclaimed tourism major listed it among the leading eco-tourism centres and one of the must-see places in India. The Gavi Eco project highlight the involvement of the local folk in activities as guides, gardeners and cooks. This will provide a livelihood for them and as well, help to create awareness on conservation of nature.
The nature loving visitors can enjoy trekking, wildlife watching and outdoor camping in specially built tents and go on night safaris. Whilst wildlife watching, you might luckily spot certain rare species of animals like Nilgiri Tahr and Lion-tailed Macaque, and if you are a bird watcher, the great pied Hornbill, Woodpecker, Kingfishers etc. If you are healthy and have keen interest to go on a trekking, take a short trek along the hill to the Sabarimala Ayyappan Temple. Make sure that you don’t miss Paradise Cove at Ninnumulli. The placid waters of Gavi and Kochupamba lakes can engage you in boating and canoeing. The road leading to Gavi is picture perfect with tea plantations, and En route to Gavi are the places of interest like Mundakkayam, Kuttikkanam, Peermedu and Vandiperiyar.
Gavi is surely a place that should not be missed in one’s lifetime. Gavi is pristine, and it belongs to the wild. Every visitor should keep in mind that they are responsible for their intentions and actions, which will have a bearing on the upkeep of Gavi for a long time to come.