Silent Valley national park is one of the magnificent beauties of nature in Kerala. It is a core part of the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve and located in the Nilgiri hills.
The national park is one of the most protected and untouched areas of rain forests and tropical moist evergreen forest in the South Western Ghats. The Silent Valley National Park comes under the Western Ghats World Heritage Site. UNESCO declared parts of Western Ghats as World Heritage site in the year 2007.
FACTS ABOUT SILENT VALLEY NATIONAL PARK
• Silent valley national park is situated on the Nilgiri hills in Kerala.
• The total area of the park is 89.52 sq. Km.
• The entire park is surrounded by a buffer zone to protect the flora and fauna. The buffer zone accounts to 148 sq. Km.
• Silent valley National park is surrounded by New Amarambalam Reserved Forest, Karimpuzha Wildlife Sanctuary and Nedumkayam Rainforest in Nilambur Taluk of Malappuram district.
• On the other side, the national park borders with Mukurthi National Park of Nilgiris district and Attappadi Reserved Forest in Mannarkkad Taluk of Palakkad district.
• It is the last remaining rain forest of Kerala.
• It was declared Reserve forest in the year 1914.
• Then in 1984 it was declared as the national park.
• Sairandhrivanam, which translates as Sairandhri's Forest, is the native name for the Silent Valley region. Draupadi, the Pandavas' wife, disguised herself as Sairandhri, the maid of a queen named Sudeshna while her family was in exile, according to the epic Mahabharatha.
• During the monsoons, Silent Valley receives a lot of rain, however the exact amount varies due to the region's varying geography.
• Rainfall is generally heavier at higher elevations and diminishes from west to east due to the rain shadow effect.
• The south-west monsoon, which lasts from June to September, accounts for 80% of the rainfall.
The park's valley areas are part of an Eco-region of tropical and subtropical moist broadleaf forests.
The South Western Ghats montane rain forests region includes hilly terrain above 1,000 metres. Above 1,500 metres, evergreen forests give place to stunted forests known as sholas, which are mixed with open grassland.
The valley's flora includes around 1000 flowering plant species, 108 orchid species, 100 ferns and fern allies, 200 liverworts, 75 lichens, and roughly 200 algae.
The Western Ghats are home to the bulk of these flora.
Many endangered species such as the lion-tailed macaque, tiger, gaur, leopard, wild boar, panther, Indian Civet, and Sambhar can be found in Silent Valley Park.
A Case Of Hydroelectric Project Which Was Cancelled In 1983 (A Movement To Save The Rain Forest)
1970: The Kerala State Electricity Board (KSEB) proposes building a hydroelectric dam over the Kunthipuzha River, which runs through Silent Valley, submerging 8.3 square kilometres of unspoiled moist evergreen forest.
In Silent Valley, a scientist from the New York Zoological Society, Steven Green, conducts research on monkeys, particularly the lion-tailed macaque. Green is concerned about the project's potential hazards to the uncommon macaque.
Simultaneously, herpetologist Rom Whitaker visits Silent Valley to research the region's snakes. He writes the Bombay Natural History Society a letter regarding the need of preserving the Valley. Reports like these raise the awareness of other naturalists.
The Planning Commission approves the project in February 1973, at a cost of around Rs 25 crores. However, due to a shortage of money, implementation is being postponed.
Protests against the project begin to grow.
October 1976: The National Committee on Environment Planning and Coordination (NCEPC) appoints Zafar Futehally to chair a task force to investigate the ecological issues that the project may cause. Work on the project has been put on hold pending the outcome of the task force's impact analysis. The Task Force advises that the project be abandoned.
It does, however, include a loophole that states that if abandoning the project is not an option, a series of protections must be established. The Kerala government, predictably, chooses to proceed with the project while vowing to apply all necessary safeguards. According to the state, the area flooded by the dam is just 1022 hectares, with 150 hectares of grasslands. Also, only 10% of the environment will be harmed, while the remainder will be protected by ecological safeguards.
Several NGOs, on the other hand, are highly opposed to the project and are urging the government to abandon it. Environmentalists contend that:
• The dam will flood the entire lower valley, eliminating its wildlife.
• The government's predicted 10% loss will actually be far higher.
• The project's employees will be stationed in the area for several years, and the devastation they bring - illegal timber felling, cattle grazing, poaching, and encroachment – will devastate the Valley.
Sathish Chandran Nair pays a visit to Silent Valley in 1977. He initiates a drive to raise awareness in intellectual circles through presentations and slide displays, with missionary zeal. V.S. Vijayan of the Kerala Forest Research Institute conducts a research on the environmental impact of hydropower projects and writes to the authorities requesting that the project not be started until his report is submitted. His report is hidden and he is reprimanded.
The conservationists' message is spread throughout Kerala, in villages and towns. Prof. John Jacob instructs young nature lovers, while S Prabhakaran Nair travels the villages of north Malabar. Nature Clubs sprang up all around the state soon after.
Prime Minister Morarji Desai, on the other hand, rejects all of the appeals and advises that the policy be implemented as soon as possible.
begins work on the project in earnest in June 1979.
August 1979: N.V. Krishna Warrier of the Prakriti Samrakshana Samiti, Prof. Joseph John, and P. Gopalakrishnan Nair, an advocate, submit a petition with the High Court of Kerala and obtain a stay order, halting the project's construction.
January 1980: The High Court dismisses the writ petition, stating that it is not for courts to adjudicate on the merits of scientific arguments and that it is "satisfied that the matters have been addressed before the State decided to launch the project." The project's work resumes in earnest.
Meanwhile, a small group of campaigners meets with Kerala Governor, requesting that she issue a stay order prohibiting further development on the project until the Centre-appointed Committee submits its findings. She accepts, and work comes to a halt once more. The public awareness initiatives continue on the streets.
The media's role is as follows: The battle for Silent Valley has a distinct curve in the media as well. The hydroelectric project receives favourable coverage in the top Malayalam publications first. By 1977, four years after the project is approved and environmentalists begin to oppose it, publications are still mostly reporting on the government's efforts to get the project started. On the rare times that editorial opinion is voiced, it is strongly in favour of the project and its ‘development.' Some media even make fun of the lion-tailed macaque, which has become a symbol of the Silent Valley species that environmentalists are attempting to safeguard.
Indira Gandhi, under pressure from the public, declares that Silent Valley will be protected in January 1981.
When the fine print is examined, however, it is discovered that the region under the hydropower project is not included in the protected area! Hundreds of complaint telegrams are sent to the Central Government after the public becomes aware of this "minor detail." NGOs, well-known scientists and intellectuals, and regular citizens are putting more pressure on the government.
The problem is re-examined by the Centre in June 1983, through a commission chaired by Prof. M.G.K. Menon.
The Silent Valley Hydroelectric Project is cancelled in November 1983.
Silent Valley National Park is publicly inaugurated by Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi in 1985.