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The land of spices in Kerala
|• Collector||Sheeba George IAS|
|• Total||4,358 km2 (1,683 sq mi)|
|Elevation||1,200 m (3,900 ft)|
|• Density||251/km2 (650/sq mi)|
|• Official||Malayalam, English|
|Time zone||UTC+5:30 (IST)|
|ISO 3166 code||IN-KL|
|HDI (2005)||0.754 ( High)|
Idukki (ഇടുക്കി), IPA: [iɖukːi], is a district in the Indian state of Kerala. It was constituted on 26 January 1972, by splitting the district of Kottayam into two parts. Its division was previously headquartered at Kottayam city, but moved to Kuyilimala near Painavu and Cheruthoni in June 1976. Idukki district lies amid the Cardamom Hills of Western Ghats in Kerala.
Though it is the second-largest district in the region in terms of area, it has the lowest population density among the districts of Kerala. The urban population is higher than the rural population. Idukki is rich in forests and thus is also known as the "Spice Garden of Kerala".
The Idukki district forms a high altitude plateau with rugged mountainious terrain, several river valleys and deep gorges. The entire northern part of the district forms a sub plateua higher than the rest of the district, this region includes the tallest peaks like Anamudi and includes the areas around Munnar, Pallivasal, Kanthalloor, Vattavada and Mankulam. The Pambar river valley (Marayoor, Keezhanthoor) forms an eastern sloping rain shadow region of the Western Ghats.The eastern frontier of the district (Kumily, Kattapana, Nedumkandam, Rajakumari and Ramakkalmedu) constitutes the Cardamon hills. The western part of the district is covered by forests and hills bordering the eastern regions of Ernakulam and Kottayam district like Neriyamangalam, Vannapuram, Thommankuthu, Moolamattom, Vagamon and Kuttikanam. Places like Thodupuzha, Koothattukulam, Udumbanoor and Muttom are situated in the semi elevated Thodupuzha river plains with scattered hills. The Periyar river basin in the district which includes Vandiperiyar, Ayyapankoil, Rajakkad, Idukki, Cheruthoni and Adimaly is an elevated plateua crisscrossed by river valleys and lies between the high peaks of the western and eastern parts of the district. The southern region is entirely covered with the forests of the Periyar National Park.
Idukki has an area of 4,358 km2 (1,683 sq mi) and is the second-largest district of Kerala (the largest being Palakkad). Rugged mountains and forests cover about 97 per cent of the total area of the district. The district consists of five taluks: Thodupuzha, Devikulam, Idukki, Udumbanchola, and Peerumedu albeit Idukki is a newly created taluk came into existence since 2013 by UDF government. The district borders the Kerala districts of Pathanamthitta in the south, Kottayam in the southwest, Ernakulam in the northwest, and Thrissur in the north. Idukki also shares borders with Coimbatore, Dindigul, small parts of Tenkasi, Tiruppur, Theni, and Virudhunagar districts of Tamil Nadu in the east. Idukki is not connected to rail or air networks yet and is accessible only by road.
Kattappana is the main urban centre in the high ranges of Idukki district, situated about 2,788.71–2,952.76 feet (850.00–900.00 m) above mean sea level and has recently raised to the status of municipality. Kattappana is a Class III urban centre.[clarification needed] It is the first municipality in the high range of Idukki district with the real terraineous[check spelling] touch of Idukki as Thodupuzha municipality is situated in low range.
Anamudi and Meesapulimala, the two highest peaks in India south of the Himalayas, are located in Idukki district. Anamudi is situated in the Kuttampuzha Panchayat of Adimali Block in the Kannan Devan Hills village of Devikulam taluk. Thirteen other peaks in the district exceed a height of 2,000 m (6,600 ft). Periyar, Thodupuzhayar, Muthirappuzhayar, and Thalayar are the important rivers of the district. Idukki Dam, Asia's largest arch dam, is located in the Idukki Township. The dam is located at the point where the Periyar flows through the gorge formed between two high and massive rocks known as 'Kuravan' and 'Kurathi'. The Idukki Hydroelectric Project caters to more than 60% of the power requirements of the state of Kerala.
Idukki has a large area of dense forest cover and shola forests. It is highly vulnerable to floods and drought and is considered a climate change hotspot in Kerala, along with the districts of Alappuzha, Palakkad, and Wayanad. Researchers attribute the increasing frequency in landslides in Idukki to climate change and deforestation. Changes in rainfall patterns caused by climate change, coupled with deforestation and large-scale construction projects, are among the contributing factors that led to the August 2020 landslide that killed 65 people, including plantation workers.
According to the 2018 Statistics Report, Idukki district has a population of 1,093,156. The 2011 Census places it at 416th among the 640 districts of India. The district has a population density of 251 inhabitants per square kilometre (650/sq mi). Its population growth rate over the decade 2001–2011 was −1.93% due to emigration and low fertility rates. Idukki has a sex ratio of 1,006 females for every 1,000 males, and a literacy rate of 92.2 percent.
Most of the people in Idukki district speaks Malayalam. But Devikulam and Peerumedu taluks have significant Tamil population albeit lesser than Malayalees.
Idukki district was the first in India to get connected to a super-fast broad band system as a part of the Digital India campaign. It was also the first to get BSNL 4G in whole country, taking the number of 4G operators in the district to four, including Vodafone Idea Ltd, Jio, and Bharti Airtel.
Munnar was the summer resort of the British Government in the south. The town is situated at the convergence of three mountain streams, namely Muthirappuzha, Nallathanni, and Kundala. Munnar has some of the largest tea plantations in the world. This hill station, which is more than 5,000 feet above sea level, is a tourist attraction noted for its scenic landscapes. Most of the native flora and fauna of Munnar have disappeared due to severe habitat fragmentation resultant from the creation of the plantations. However, some species continue to survive and thrive in several protected areas nearby, including the new Kurinjimala Sanctuary to the east, the Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary, Manjampatti Valley, and the Amaravati reserve forest of Indira Gandhi Wildlife Sanctuary to the northeast, the Eravikulam National Park and Anamudi Shola National Park in the north, and the Pampadum Shola National Park to the south. The Palani Hills National Park is proposed to come up to the east of Idukki. These protected areas are especially known for several threatened and endemic species including the Nilgiri tahr, the grizzled giant squirrel, the Nilgiri wood-pigeon, the elephant, the gaur, the Nilgiri langur, the sambar, and the neelakurinji (that blossoms only once in twelve years).
The former Kunda Valley Railway in Munnar was destroyed by a flood in 1924, but tourism officials are considering reconstructing the railway line to attract tourists.
This hill station provides options of trekking, para gliding or rock climbing for adventure-seekers, and has many varieties of flora and fauna. Evergreen trees, tall grasses, and shrubs are present in the lower regions of Vagamon. Many rare species of birds, insects, wild buffaloes, and elephants can be easily located in the forests. The main attractions here are mist-covered mountains and lakes, pilgrim centers (Kurishumala, Murugan temple, and burial chamber of a Sufi saint), and pine forests.
Ramakalmedu stands tall in the Western Ghats at a height of 3,500 feet above sea level. The ecosystem of the area consists largely of Shola forest-grasslands, with sporadic bamboo forests.
Constant wind is another factor that makes Ramakkalmedu unique. The wind blows at a speed around 35 km/hour throughout the year, irrespective of the season and time. Tourist villages like Pushpakandam and Kuruvikanam near Ramakkalmedu are home to private wind energy farms, with a capacity of about 12.5 MW. This electricity is distributed to the Kerala State Electricity Board. Ramakkalmedu has the potential to produce more electricity, as it is said to be one of the most windy areas in Asia.
Thekkady is located close to the Kerala-Tamil Nadu border, about 257 km (160 mi) from Trivandrum, 140 km from Madurai City and Madurai Airport, 145 km from Cochin International Airport, and 114 km from Kottayam railway station. The sanctuary at Thekkady is known for its dense evergreen and semi-evergreen, moist deciduous forests and savanna grass lands. It is home to herds of elephants, sambar, tigers, gaur, lion-tailed macaques and Nilgiri langurs.
The Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary is spread across 777 km2 (300 sq mi), of which 360 km2 (140 sq mi) is thick evergreen forest. The wildlife sanctuary was declared a tiger reserve in 1978. The splendid artificial lake formed by the Mullaperiyar Dam across the Periyar River adds to the charm of the park. The greatest attractions of Periyar are the herds of wild elephants, deer, and bison that come down to drink in the lake. The sanctuary can be accessed through a trekking route, boating, or jeep safari. Thekkady is considered a haven for natural spices such as black pepper, cardamom, cinnamon, nutmeg, nutmace, ginger, and clove.
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Marayur is a remote village on the eastern slopes of the Western Ghats. Relics of the New Stone Age have been unearthed here. It has ancient stone cabins, called 'Muniyaras', and is the only place in Kerala with natural growth of sandalwood trees. Marayur has more than 1,000 species of flowering plants and is a well-known repository of medicinal plants. There are 114 endemic species and the sighting of Albizia lathamii, a critically endangered tree, was recently reported from the dry forests. Chinnar – the wildlife sanctuary in Marayur – has recorded the largest number of reptilian species, including the mugger crocodile, in Kerala. With 225 recorded species of birds, it is one of the richest areas in avian diversity in South India. The forests in Marayur preserve a population of the endangered grizzled giant squirrel. The rare white bison has been recently reported in Chinnar wildlife sanctuary. Other important mammals found are elephant, tiger, leopard, gaur, sambar, spotted deer, Nilgiri thar, common langur, bonnet macaque, etc. The phenomenon of butterfly migration occurs in between the monsoons.
Maryoor has got a number of sandalwood forests. Processing of sandalwood and its associated oil forms part of the local economy and a depot near Marayur town is supporting this industry. Sandal wood or Santalum album is a parasitic tree having a fragrant and close-grained yellowish heartwood. Sandalwood oil, also known as ‘liquid gold,’ is extracted from the roots and wood of sandalwood. This oil is a costly item marketed at a few choosy outlets all over the state. A climate with low rainfall is suitable for the growth of choice sandalwood trees from which good quality oil can be extracted. The 93 km2 Marayur reserve forest is believed to have about sixty thousand naturally grown sandalwood trees, of which nearly 2,000 trees had been allegedly plundered in just one year since January 2004, when the last survey was conducted. The auction-rate for first quality Marayur sandal is quoted at Rs.1100 per kg, according to forest department sources (2004).
Kosamattam Plantation located 3,861 ft (1,177 m) above sea level and is ideally located on border belt of the Western Ghats in Idukki district of Kerala. Just 10 km (6.2 mi) from Kattapana town and around 23 km (14 mi) from Kumaly town, this estate is in the location of the cardamom belt of Idukki district.
Idukki Wildlife Sanctuary
Idukki Wildlife Sanctuary came into existence in 1976. It is located in the Thodupuzha and Udumbanchola taluks in Idukki district. It has an area of 105.364sq.km. The altitude ranges from 450 to 1272 m. The highest peak is Vanjur Medu (1272m).
Eravikulam Wild Life Sanctuary
Eravikulam is another wildlife sanctuary proclaimed as a National Park. It supports the largest population of Nilgiri tahr in the world. Anamudi peak is on the southern part of this park. Most of the park is grassland and the average altitude is more than 5000 feet above sea level. Heavy rain and gushing winds make the area inaccessible during the monsoon season. The famous Neelakurinji (Strobilanthes kunthiana) grows here. It has a flowering cycle of 12 years. Twenty-six species of mammals have been recorded in the park including the largest surviving population of Nilgiri tahr, estimated at about 750 individuals. The other ungulates are gaur, Indian muntjac and sambar deer. Golden jackal, jungle cat, wild dog, dhole, leopard and tiger are the main predators. Some little-known animals such as Nilgiri langur, stripe-necked mongoose, Indian porcupine, Nilgiri marten, small clawed otter, ruddy mongoose, and dusky palm squirrel are also found. Elephants make seasonal visits.
132 species of birds have been recorded which include endemics like black-and-orange flycatcher, Nilgiri pipit, Nilgiri wood pigeon, white bellied shortwing, Nilgiri flycatcher and Kerala laughingthrush.
Endemic butterflies confined to the shola-grass land ecosystem like the red disk bushbrown and Palni four-wing are among the 101 species in the park.
Periyar Tiger Reserve
Periyar Tiger Reserve, Thekkady, is sprawled over an area of 925 km2. Periyar is one of the 50 tiger reserves in India. This zealously guarded and efficiently managed reserve is a repository of rare, endemic and endangered flora and fauna, and forms the major watershed of two important rivers of Kerala, the Periyar, and Pamba.
Periyar National Park and Wildlife Sanctuary (PNP) is a protected area in the districts of Idukki and Pathanamthitta in Kerala. It is notable as an elephant reserve and a tiger reserve. The protected area covers an area of 925 km2 (357 sq mi). 305 km2 (118 sq mi) of the core zone was declared as the Periyar National Park in 1982
Pampadumshola National Park
Pampadum Shola National Park is the smallest national park in Kerala state, South India. The park is administered by the Kerala Department of Forests and Wildlife, Munnar Wildlife Division, together with the nearby Mathikettan Shola National Park, Eravikulam National Park, Anamudi Shola National Park, Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary and the Kurinjimala Sanctuary. The park adjoins the Allinagaram Reserved Forest within the proposed Palani Hills Wildlife Sanctuary and National Park. The Western Ghats, Anamalai sub-cluster, including these parks, is under consideration by the UNESCO World Heritage Committee for selection as a World Heritage Site.
Kurinjimala Sanctuary protects the approximately 32 km2 core habitat of the endangered Neelakurinji plant in Kottakamboor and Vattavada villages in Devikulam Taluk, Idukki district of Kerala State in South India.
This district has several protected areas including Periyar Tiger Reserve in the south, Kurinjimala Sanctuary to the east, Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary to the northeast, Eravikulam National Park and Anamudi Shola National Park to the north and Pampadum Shola National Park to the south. These protected areas are well known for several threatened and endemic species including tiger, Nilgiri tahr, grizzled giant squirrel, Nilgiri wood-pigeon, elephant, gaur, sambar deer, purple frog and neelakurinji.
There are several waterfalls in Idukki, most of them are active only during the monsoon season.
The Cheeyappara Waterfalls (ചീയ്യപ്പാറ) is on the Kochi – Madurai Highway in Idukki district (National Highway 49), between Neriamangalam and Adimali. The Cheeyappara Waterfall cascades down in seven steps. This place is well known for trekking.
Thommankuthu (തൊമ്മൻകുത്ത്) is a scenic waterfall near Thodupuzha in the district. Thomankoothu waterfalls is not a single waterfall but a series of 12 falls over a distance of 5 km. It is one of the major eco-tourism centers in Idukki, Kerala.
- Adimaly Block
- Azhutha Block
- Devikulam Block
- Elamdesom Block
- Idukki Block
- Kattappana Block
- Nedumkandam Block
- Thodupuzha Block
Culture in Idukki is mixed since it consists of migrated people from other parts of Kerala and native tribals. The presence of a large number of tribal populations is peculiar to Idukki District. Kovilmala, near Kattappana in Idukki is home to one of the still ruling tribal kings in India, Kovilmala Raja Mannan. Kovilmala is the headquarters of Mannan community who preserves certain customs, traditions, and form of governance, making them a unique tribal unit. The system of governance here is a democratic monarchy in which a king is elected by the people to rule.
Idukki is also home to unique dishes like Idiyirachi, a preserved meat common in the local cuisine.
Dams in Idukki
- National Highway 183 Kollam in Kerala with Dindigul in Tamil Nadu Via: Theni – Uthamapalayam – Cumbum – Kumily – Peermade – Kanjirapally – Pampady – Kottayam – Changanassery – Thiruvalla – Chengannur – Charummoodu – Bharanikkavu – Kollam
- National Highway 185 Adimali to Kumily Via: Adimali – Cheruthoni – Kattappana – Anavilasom – Kumily
- National Highway 85 Via Kochi – Ernakulam – Muvattupuzha – Kothamangalam – Adimali – Munnar – Devikulam – Bodi – Theni – Madurai – Rameswaram – Dhanushkodi
- State Highway 8 (Kerala) Punalur – Muvattupuzha Via: Pallimikku (Punalur) – Pathanapuram – Kallumkadavu – Kalanjoor – Koodal – Konni – Kumbazha – Mylapra – Mannarakulanji – Uthimmoodu – Mandiram – Ranni – Makkapuzha – Ponthanpuzha – Karikkattoor – Manimala – Cheruvally – Ponkunnam – Elamgulam – Pala – Thodupuzha – Vazhakulam – Nirmala College junction – Muvattupuzha
- State Highway 13 (Kerala) Kottayam-Kumily
- State Highway 14 (Kerala) Erattupetta – Peermade highway Via: Erattupetta – Vellikulam – Vagamon – Road joins with Pullikkanam – Elappara road – Pattithanam
- State Highway 16 (Kerala) Aluva – Munnar highway Via: Aluva – Ponjasseri – Mannoor – Perumbavoor – Koovapady – Kuruppumpady – Kootickal – Paneli – Muvattupuzha – Kothamangalam – Neriamangalam – Chenappara – Deviyar – Adimali – Chithirapuram – Kallar – Pallivasal – Munnar
- State Highway 17 (Kerala) Northern outlet road (Munnar Udumalpet road) Via: Munnar – Rajamudi – Anakkalpetty – Chinnar river (State boundary) – Road continues to Udumalaipettai
- State Highway 18 (Kerala) Munnar – Top Station Highway Via: Munnar – Madypatty – Top Station – State boundary – Road continues to Tamil Nadu as part of Kodaikanal – Munnar Road
- State Highway 19 (Kerala) Munnar – Kumily highway Via Munnar – Devikolam – Pooppara – Bodimettu – Santhanpara – Udumbumchola – Vattappara – Amaravathy – Kumily
- State Highway 33 (Kerala) Thodupuzha-Puliyanmala Via: Thodupuzha – Muttom – Kuruthikulam – Meenmutty – Painavu – Kattappana – Puliyanmala
- State Highway 40 (Kerala) Alappuzha – Cumbummettu Road Via: Alappuzha – Muhamma – Thanneermukkam – Vechur Bund Road – Thalayolaparambu – Peruva – Mutholapuram – Marika – Vazhithala – Kolani – Thodupuzha – Vannappuram – Thopramkudy – Nedumkandam – Thookkupalam – Cumbummettu
- State Highway 41 (Kerala) Ernakulam – Thekkady Road Via: Palarivattom – Kakkanad – Pallikkara – Kizhakkambalam – Pattimattom – Valamboor – Muvattupuzha – Pandappilly – Arikuzha – Manakkad – Thodupuzha – Vagamon – Valakodu – Upputhara – Chottupara – Kumily – Thekkady
- State Highway 42 (Kerala) Kumarakom – Cumbammettu – Cumbum Via: Kumarakom – Edayazham – Kallara – Kaduthuruthy – Neezhoor – Piravam – Vazhithala – Karimkunnam – Thodupuzha – Velliyamattom – Kulamavu – Cheruthoni – Rajamudy – Thopramkudy – Prakash – Kallar – Cumbammettu – Cumbum
- State Highway 43 (Kerala) Muvattupuzha – Theni road Via: Muvattupuzha – Kalloorkkad – Kodikulam – Idukki – Mariyapuram – Thankamani – Erattayar – Kattappana – Puliyanmala – Chettukuzhi – Cumbammettu – Cumbum – Theni
- State Highway 44 (Kerala) Sabarimala – Neriamangalam Via: Pamba – Chalakayam – Thulappilly – Pambavalley – Mukkootuthara – Erumeli – Koovappally – Kanjirappally – Kappadu – Kalaketty – Chemmalamattam – Thidanadu – Erattupetta – Melukavu – Muttom – Thodupuzha – Paingottoor – Neriyamangalam
- Hill Highway (Kerala) Via: Kasargodu – Kannur – Wayanad – Kozhikode – Malappuram – Palakkad – Thrissur – Eranakulam – Idukki – Kottayam – Pathanamthitta – Kollam – Vithura – Thiruvananthapuram
The Neriamangalam Bridge, built across the Periyar river, is often referred to as The Gateway to the Highranges as it is on the way to the higher regions of Idukki district, especially Munnar. The bridge was made by the Maharaja of Travancore in 1935.
At present, there is no railway in and to Idukki district of Kerala. The nearest railway stations are Kottayam (station code – KTYM), Aluva (Alwaye, station code – AWY), Ernakulam South (Ernakulam Jn., station code – ERS) and Ernakulam North (Ernakulam Town, station code – ERN). There was a rail line that existed in the district during colonial period called, Kundala Valley Railway. It got destroyed in the Great flood of 99 in 1924. The under-construction Sabarimala Railway project connecting Angamaly to Punalur will pass through the Idukki district.
The nearest airports to Idukki are Cochin International Airport and Coimbatore Airport. Airport Authority of India's plan to set up an airport in Anakkara is in conflict with environmental issues. Anakkara Airport will be a great leap in Idukki's complete development. The government claims this project will improve the tourism in the area. However, with Anakkara being situated in environmentally sensitive Western Ghats, environmentalists and villagers argue that this can significantly impact the area's climatic conditions and livelihood of people. Also, the land identified for the project is one of the very few remaining paddy fields of the district, currently cultivating some of the rare indigenous varieties of rice which increases the concern about the project. Those opposing the airport also cite the economic benefits as Munnar, one of the key target destinations for the airport lies at about 100 km from Anakkara and the time taken to reach there from Cochin International Airport is less than the time taken to reach from Anakkara. Though there are no clear references online from the government on the objectives, benefits, and purpose of the proposed airport, anti-Anakkara-airport groups have set up social networking campaign sites explaining reasons why they claim the airport project should not be implemented.
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