Silent Valley National Park
Silent Valley National park is located in the Nilgiri hills, Palakkad district, Kerala, in South India. The area under this national park was historically explored in1847 by the
Botanist Robert Wright, and is associated with Hindu legend.
The park is one of the last undisturbed tracts of South Western Ghats montane rain forests and tropical moist evergreen forest in India. Contiguous with the proposed Karimpuzha National Park to the north and Mukurthi National Park to the north east,
it is the core of the Nilgiri International Biosphere Reserve, and is part of the Western Ghats World Heritage Site, Nilgiri Sub-Cluster under consideration by UNESCO.
Plans for a hydroelectric project that threatened the parks high diversity of wildlife stimulated an environmentalist Social Movement in the 1970’s called Save Silent Valley which resulted in cancellation of the project and creation of the park is at Sairandhri.
The area is locally known as “Sairandhrivanam” literally, in Malayalam: Sairandhari Valley. In local Hindu legend, Sairandhri is Draupadi, the polyandrous wife of the five Pandavas, who disguised herself as Sairandhri, queen Sudeshna’s assistant, while they were in exile. The Pandavas, deprived of their kingdom, set out on a 13yr exile. They wandered south, into what is now Kerala, until one day they came upon a magical valley where rolling grasslands met wooded ravines, a deep green river bubbled its course through impenetrable forest, where at dawn and twilight the tiger and elephant would drink together at the water’s edge, where all was harmonious and man unknown. Beside that river, in a cave on a hill slope, the Pandavas halted.
The first English investigation of the watersheds of the Silent Valley area was in 1847 by the botanist Robert Wight. The British named the area Silent Valley because of a perceived absence of noisy Cicads.Another story attributes the name to the Anglicization of Sairandhri.A third story, refers to the presence there of many Lion tailed Macaques-Maccaca Silenus.In 1914 the forest of the Silent Valley area was declared a Reserve Forest, however, from 1927to 1976 portions of the Silent Valley forest area were subjected to forestry operations. In 1928 the location on the Kunthipuzha River at Sairandhri was identified as an ideal site for electricity generation and in 1958 a study and survey of the area was conducted and a hydroelectric project of 120MV costing Rs.17 crore was proposed by the Kerala State Electricity Board.
Silent Valley is home to the largest population of Lion tailed Macaque. Public controversy over their habitat led to establishment of Silent Valley National Park.In 1973 the valley became the focal point of “Save Silent Valley”, India’s fiercest environmental debate of the decade, when the Kerala State Electricity Board decided to implement the Silent Valley Hydro-Electric Project centered on a dam across the Kunthipuzha River. The resulting reservoir would flood 8.3square meter of virgin rainforest and threaten the endangered Lion –tailed macaque. In 1976 the Kerala State Electricity Board announced plans to begin dam construction and the issue were brought to public attention.
The Kunthipuzha River drains the entire 15km length of the park from north to south into the Bharthapuzha river.Kunthipuzha River divides the park into a narrow eastern sector of width 2kms and a wide western sector of 5 kms.The river is characterized by its crystal clear and perennial nature. The main tributaries of the river, kunthancholapuzha, Karingathodu, Madrimaranthodu, Valliaparathodu and Kummarthanthodu originate on the upper slopes of the eastern side of the valley. The river is uniformly shallow; with no flood plains or meanders.
Silent Valley gets copious amounts of rainfall during the monsoons, but the actual amount varies within the region due the varied topography. The mean annual rainfall ranges from over 5000mm in the Neelikal area in the west to around 3200mm on the eastern side of the park. The park being completely enclosed withing a ring of hills, has its own micro-climate and probably receives some conventional rainfall, in addition to rain from two monsoons. In general the rainfall is higher at higher alttitude and decreases from the west to east due to the rain shadow effect. Eighty percent of the rainfall occurs during the south-west monsoon. It also receives significant amount of rainfall during the north-east monsoon.