The Kanan Devan Hills is located in the southern Western Ghats, a biodiversity hotspot, and within a biodiversity rich area bordered by the National Parks of Eravikulam, Aneimudi Shola, Pambadum Shola and Mathikettan Shola. The area, with its undulating terrain is scenic with tea estates interspersed with the unique, montaine evergreen shola vegetation. This inimitable vegetation protects rare plants and animals, including endemics like the Nilgiri Tahr. The region also supports more than 10,000 families through direct employment, and is the livelihood of further thousands of families in the region and the State, through the tourism sector. The three main rivers which form the ‘Munnar River’ originate from KDHP’s estates, and there are 223 water sources originating from these estates; these water sources form a perennial supply of water to the plantations, as well as millions of people downstream.
This region is also important in terms of cultural diversity, especially with the presence of the Mudhuvan community and their unique lifestyle.
KDHP’s plantations in Munnar is located about 145km from Kochi, 160km from Madurai and 160km from Coimbatore airports, and the region is connected by main roads linking it to various towns and cities, both in Kerala and Tamil Nadu; the Kochi-Madurai-Dhanushkodi National Highway (NH49) traverses through Munnar. The nearest railway stations are Aluva (125km), in Kerala, and Madurai and Coimbatore (160km) in Tamil Nadu.
The Kanan Devan Hills forms an interesting region from the ecological point of view, with elevations ranging from 950m to 2600m AMSL, and the High Range consists of many spectacular peaks, including the highest peak in India south of the Himalayas, the Aneimudi (2696m AMSL). Some of the tea fields in this region at 2200m AMSL are among the highest in the world, and are located on the edge of the escarpment which faces the Arabian Sea; the KDHP administered areas are situated mainly on the westward direction of the Western Ghats. The greater part of the region experiences cold winter conditions, and the green carpet of the tea fields interspersed with Eucalyptus grandis clearings and ‘Sholas’ are a unique feature of the region.
The climate in the High Ranges is subtropical to temperate, due to the high elevation, causing a drop in air temperature. Being located at the edge of the escarpment which faces the Arabian Sea, the annual rainfall shows a wide variation - from 130cm in the eastern end to 600cm in the western end, all within an aerial distance of 26km. Based on the elevation and climatic conditions, the tea-growing region has been divided into five agro-climatic zones, viz Western End, Top Station, Plateau, Eastern End and Low Elevation.
The regions in the Western End, at the foot of Aneimudi, gets predominantly the south-west monsoon with an average rainfall of 550 cm, and the Top Station region receives mostly north-east monsoon rains, recording an annual rainfall of about 160 cm only; other areas get the benefit of both the monsoons and the annual precipitation varies between 160 cm and 250 cm. The region experiences dry weather conditions for about 3 to 4 months between December and March. During the monsoon season, the plantations experience moderate to heavy winds, and the annual average minimum temperature is 13oC and the annual average maximum temperature is 22oC, with the maximum temperature varying between 18oC to 28oC during the year. During the winter season, the minimum temperature goes below freezing point in a few locations, resulting in frost; the dry weather remains from December to March, which is broken by summer showers from March to May. The humidity levels drop significantly during the dry weather period, especially during February-March, and this, in conjunction with high temperatures accentuates the drought effect. The west facing fields are exposed to moderate to severe wind during the south-west monsoon period.