Keeping the ‘Green Hills’ truly green 

#GS1 Geography #GS3 #Environment #Biodiversity 

An eco-toursim model allows tourists to explore the wilderness of Tamil Nadu's Pachaimalai hills and locals to have a stake in protecting them. 

  • The ‘Pachaimalai’ hill range located in Tiruchirappalli district of Tamil Nadu mean ‘Green Hills’ in English. These are unexplored areas of the Eastern Ghats, covered with dry evergreen and dry deciduous forests. 
  • The concept of eco-tourism introduced in recent years by the forest department, involving the local forest stake-holders is advantageous not only for the residents but also for the biodiversity of the entire hill range. 
  • The deteriorating pristine environment of the Pachaimalai hills due to unregulated tourism can be protected only if local people realise the importance of clean environment and cooperate with the forest department. 

The range 

  • The ecological significance of the Pachaimalai hills is huge. With the average annual rainfall of 800-900 millimetres, mostly from the northeast monsoon, the forests serve as a catchment area for about 30 lakes situated at the foothills. 
  • Numerous streams originate from the forests of the hill range. Their water irrigates thousands of hectares of land at the foothills and the nearby plains. 
  • The well-being of these water systems is closely related to the prosperity of the farmers of the district as the economy depends on agriculture. 
  • The rainwater due to precipitation in the reserve forests is collected by umpteen number of streams. The water sources can be maintained properly only if the reserve forests are protected well. 
  • But wildlife numbers in the area have reduced in the past due to biotic pressures like conversion of private forests into coffee plantations and orchards and encroachments by private estates. 
  • Many of the animal species have been driven to the verge of extinction due to hunting, poaching and habitat loss in the past. 
  • The rich biota and the fragile ecosystem of the hill range can be saved from the ruthless hands of wealthy and political mafia only by the timely intervention of the forest department. 

Eco-tourism in the Green Hills 

  • A strategy has now been devised to protect the area through the support and cooperation of the local tribes. They are engaged as guides for trekking and other eco-tourism allied activities. 
  • The fabulous cuisine of the tribes, their amazing lifestyle and interesting culture are exposed to visitors. Tourists who stay here for a night, can enjoy the awesome campfire with the dance, song and music of the local tribes. 
  • At the foothills of Pachaimalai, forest rest houses commanding panoramic view of the hill range, are available for the accommodation of tourists. 
  • Similarly, in Top Sengattupatti village located at the top of the hill, the forest department has developed ‘Tree Top Huts’, a dormitory and a British Era heritage rest house under eco-tourism.  
  • The Tree Top Huts have excellent model suites for the comfortable stay of tourists. The dormitory can accommodate large groups of tourists who undertake trekking. 
  • The British Era rest house, built amid mahogany groves, has got its own heritage value. Even during the hot summer, the lofty and gigantic mahogany trees provide a pleasant atmosphere and shelter from the heat and glare of sunlight through dense shade. 
  • The heritage rest house consists of two suites and has been developed with all facilities for the convenient stay of the visitors. 
  • Selected trekking routes through verdant and lush green reserve forest make one enjoy the natural surroundings. Trekking tours are conducted by the forest department on selected routes. 
  • One forest guard and one forest watcher, along with two tribal trekking guides accompany the tourists during the trek. En route, important trees have been identified and provided with information boards containing the details of their scientific names, local names, families and uses, so as to enable the visitors to know about such trees. 
  • Spotted deer, mouse deer, barking deer, sloth bear, slender loris, jungle cat, Indian giant squirrel, toddy cat, common monkey, common mongoose, blacknaped hare, porcupine are some of the commonly sighted animals while trekking. 
  • Birds like junglefowl, barbets, flycatchers, king crows, babblers, mynas, munias, flowerpeckers, sunbirds, parakeets, woodpeckers, rosy pastor, warblers, Indian pitta, kingfishers are some of the interesting birds that can be seen in the forest. 
  • Eco-tourism in the Pachaimalai Hills gives an opportunity to tourists to savour natural surroundings and experience traditional tribal life, while providing employment to locals and keeping the environment safe at the same time. 
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