The plantation industry is considered as a quintessential link for the safety of many biological hotspots, which are many, and large carbon sinks around the globe. Munnar is presently witnessing the beginning of a new chapter through the introduction of a new business model known as the Kanan Devan Hills Plantations (KDHP) Co Pvt Ltd, and success in its mission will augur well for the Indian and global plantation industry for road mapping sustainable plantation operations.
The landscape of the Kanan Devan Hills is dominated by tea and the fuel wood plantations .The valleys have the high altitude shola grasslands, most of which are in pristine condition forming the natural ecosystem and providing a refuge to the rich and varied flora and fauna of the region. The High Ranges, with their specific environmental and habitat conditions standout to be ‘land locked islets’ and have obviously become the confines of many interesting endemics and rare plants and animals.
The natural water sources like swamps and streams are crucial for the sustainability of the plantations; moreover, these are interspersed with tea, fuelwood plantations and ‘sholas’. These are currently protected without disturbance. The existing ponds which cater to the needs not only of the people, but also of animals like elephants, are protected and maintained.
The area is also a refuge to several species of animals, and supports a good population of Nilgiri Tahr, Nilgiri Langur, Elephants, Gaur (Indian Bison), Panthers, Wild Cats, Sambar Deer (Rusa Unicolor) Barking Deers (Munjtacs), Malabar Giant Squirrels etc, in addition to various reptiles and amphibians. The hills in the surrounding areas are the abode of the endangered and Western Ghat endemic Nilgiri Tahr. The Nilgiri Tahr is a zoogeographically significant species, and a viable population is found in the Eravikulam National Park. In addition to the above, there are about 102 species of birds recorded in the Kanan Devan Hills area.
The Western Ghats is today one of the global biodiversity hotspots, and KDHP, and its predecessor tea companies including Tata Tea Limited and James Finlay & Company have upheld a unique legacy in conservation, which continues to this day. The High Range Wildlife & Environment Preservation Association (HRW&EPA) is at the forefront of this effort, which works hand in hand with KDHP in mainstreaming the environmental conservation within the region, alongside production of tea. It is laudable that most of the members of HRW&EPA are officers of KDHP.
The meticulous and laudable tradition of conservation has helped maintain an ecological equilibrium in this beautiful hill station of Munnar. An important manifestation of the success of the integration of commercial activity and conservation in these hills is the rich faunal diversity that is present across the KDHP Estates.
Naturally degraded Sholas (Evergreen deciduous woods and thickets) are identified and regeneration programmes are carried out under the aegis of the HRW&EPA. These programmes are funded by the company and plants required for the same are raised in its R&D nursery.
Wildlife across our estates is regularly monitored and sighting records are available for nearly a decade. This record is a useful tool to map the faunal diversity of this area; moreover, any cases of poaching or injury to animals noticed in their respective areas are immediately informed to the Forest Department.