Palani Hills : Shrinking Heaven

Recently there was a photograph shared on Facebook. It was a bit embarrassing to see pictures of bonnet macaques drinking beer in Kodaikanal. The beer bottles were thrown away along the road by the tourists and the macaques were habituated to the drink. It’s not only the macaque but many animals and birds feed from the garbage. One of the most beautiful creatures in Western Ghats, especially when they suck honey from the flower of the “tiger claw” (Erythrina variegata), is the Oriental White Eye. While walking along the Coaker’s Walk I saw some of them eating the cotton-fluff thrown by the tourists into the forest. There was also a Nilgiri Flycatcher searching for food in the open dustbin. Looking down into the escarpment I saw a lot of plastic bags, wrappers and food waste spread all over the place and a pair of Grey Jungle Fowl were in search of food. Though it’s not new to watch a common myna or even a jungle myna feeding from garbage it’s hard to accept the endemic creatures feed on human waste. 

Photograph (Forest Fire) by Vishaka Guru

Kodaikanal is one of the most attractive tourist spots in Tamil Nadu. Unfortunately many of the visitors disturb the beauty of nature during their visit and the scar remains in the hills. During summer, there is no control on tourists heading to Kodaikanal. The traffic can be maddening: I have spent an hour on the road to Poomparai; the traffic drags just like it may on a busy road in Chennai, it doesn’t seem to make a difference. A lot of roadside shops on the Ghat road from Palani and Batlagundu still provide plastic bags to the tourists which litter the side of the road. The tourists stop wherever they please to eat and leave behind leftover food, plastic bags, wrappers, water bottles, plastic cups and so on in the same place. Much of this waste finds its way into the streams and rivers; the beautiful Silver Cascade carries with it chill-bhaji, corncobs and other discarded foodstuff on its way to the plains. Some of the vehicles rushing on the Ghat road are also responsible for the killing of many of the reptiles and amphibians in the hills. No detailed study has been done so far to know about how many species are facing a serious threat because of speeding vehicles.

Another form of pollution comes in the form of high decibels from horns used by the vehicles that come up. The horns and loud music spoils the peace of the forest and perhaps makes it difficult for the birds and animals to communicate with each other. Vehicles, however, move on, but there are religious institutions that make more noise and which may remain for a whole day or week, echoing across the many ranges of the hills!! 

Perumparai is place in the Palani hills and known for the many species of birds that can be sighted there; about 150 species have been recorded. On a recent visit there I was annoyed by the loudspeakers that continued until midnight, the sound carrying to the hills across. How do birds communicate then? The habitat of birds is not only about the trees and the physical ecology: it is also about the overall ambience, which is crucial to their well-being and survival.  

Another major disturbance to the ecology of the Palani hills is fire. Every year forest fires rage across many of the ranges, often due to the careless act of a tourist who flicks his unextinguished cigarette butt or a farmer who burns the debris in his field to prepare it for sowing. As the fire spreads many seeds and young plants are destroyed.

What could have been a wonderful place is now increasingly polluted in all manner of ways: the water, the forest, the very air has been adversely affected. It is anybody’s guess how far this can continue!!

Article Published in Leaf Litter Magazine - 2017
©Satheesh Muthu Gopal

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  1. Keep Motivate people with your ✍️ writings to save the nature..

  2. Excellent Write up. But whatever the initiative has been taken people has to be aware of what are they doing and they need to know what exactly they wanted to do and what not to do. We need more clarity on that but still it’s all up to them at the end. Slowly we are destroying the nature and we need more conservation for that. If the same thing goes on and on, we will lose every thing. let’s see what is there in future. Keep writing and your articles are truly inspiring us!