Jairam Ramesh to inaugurate silver jubilee function of national park on Nov. 15

The 25th anniversary celebrations of the unique Silent Valley National Park, one of the few remaining rain forests in the world, will be inaugurated by Union Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh at Mundur on November 15 and at Mukkali in Silent Valley on November 16, 2009.

Chief Conservator of Forests (Wildlife) W.S. Suting told The Hindu here on Wednesday that a seminar on conservation and awareness programmes would be organised by the Forest Department as part of the celebrations at Integrated Rural Technology Centre (IRTC), Mundur.

A mobile exhibition on the need to protect the unique forests of Silent Valley will tour all the districts of the State.

Study camps will be organised across the State and an exhibition on Silent Valley will be conducted in all the schools. These rain forests described as “the richest expression of life on earth’’ is estimated to have an evolutionary age of more than 50 million years. It is the habitat of a wide variety of flora and fauna – many of them rare.

The lion-tailed macaque, tiger and a number of lesser carnivores, rare types of fish, a variety of birds such as blue-eared kingfisher and pied ground thrush and butterflies of different hues are found here.

The most elusive birds of Kerala, Ceylon Frogmouth (Batrachostomus moniligeri), Pallied Harrier and Marsh Harriers, were spotted in the Park in a bird survey in March 2006.

L. Namassivayam, head of the survey team said seven numbers of the most elusive Ceylon Frogmouth were spotted within 100 metres during the survey. This is considered a unique record for Kerala.

The survey jointly organised by the Forest Department and the Kerala Natural History found as many as 127 species, representing a wide family of distribution found in the park. Nine new species such as the Pallied, Marsh Harriers, Red Munia, and Iora were also spotted.

The other dominant species found were the Mountain Imperial Pigeon, Emerlad Dove, Black Bulbul and the Yellow-browned Bulbul, Mr. Namassivayam said.

The winter bird survey conducted in December 2006 found the Long Legged Buzzard, a new species of raptor from Sispara, its highest peak.

The survey noted 10 endangered species recorded in the Red Data Book. It found 17 species that were new to the Silent Valley.

The Silent Valley National Park is situated at the south western corner of Nilgiri hills, about 45 km. from Mannarkkad.

Historically it is part of Nilgiris and now part of the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve. It has never been inhabited by any tribes.

An ‘ecological island,’ it is known to be the only surviving bit of Tropical Evergreen Forests in the Sahya Ranges.

Scientific studies have shown that there are more than 1000 flowering plants belonging to 571 genera and 134 families.

The Park was the symbol of the conservation movement in the country. It was the focal point of a raging ecological controversy during the late seventies and early eighties – triggered by the Kerala State Electricity Board’s proposal to build a hydel project.

Two decades after the formation of Park the KSEB came up with an alternative Pathrakadavu project. The new dam proposed was only 3.5 km. downstream of the old dam site at Sairandhri and 500 metres below the Park boundary.

This again created an uproar in the State and the present Left Democratic Front (LDF) government was forced to backtrack from the project.

It took 25 years for the government to create a buffer zone for the Park since there were demands from the very beginning that without one the Park would not survive.

The buffer zone has been declared but it has not come into force effectively. Part of the Attappady forests, it is facing destruction from encroachment, tree felling and ganja cultivation.

Naturalist Salim Ali once observed: “The Silent Valley is not just an evergreen forest, it is a very fine example of one of the richest, most threatened and least studied habitats on earth.’’ 

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