What is the news?
The declaration of the Srivilliputhur-Megamalai Tiger Reserve in Tamil Nadu can rejuvenate Vaigai, India’s heritage river.
Tiger Reserves in Tamil Nadu
Srivilliputhur-Megamalai Tiger Reserve will be the 5th tiger reserve of Tamil Nadu. The other four are:
- Mudumalai (MTR)
- Anamalai (ATR)
- Sathyamangalam (STR)
- Kalakkad Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve (KMTR)
About Vaigai River:
- Vaigai is a river in Tamil Nadu. The river is also referred to as Shiva Ganga in many places.
- It is also called Kritamaala, for it runs around the city of Madurai like a garland
- It travels through the Pandiya Nadu region of Tamil Nadu.
- Historic significance: The Vaigai was the river that flowed through the city of Madurai, the capital of the ancient and prosperous Pandya kingdom located in southern Tamil Nadu.
- The river also finds a mention in Sangam literature dated to 300 before the Common Era (BCE).
- The story of Vaigai is told in Thiruvilayadal Puranam
- Origin: The river originates in the Varusanadu Hills, the Periyar Plateau of the Western Ghats range.
- Empties into: The river finally empties into the Palk Strait near the Pamban Bridge in Ramanathapuram district.
- Tributaries: Its main tributaries are Suruliyaru, Mullaiyaru, Varaaga Nadhi, Manjalaru, Kottagudi, Kridhumaal and Upparu.
- The Vattaparai Falls are also located on this river.
- Significance: The river fulfils the drinking water requirement of five districts of Tamil Nadu namely Theni, Madurai, Ramanathapuram, Sivagangai and Dindigul.
How did things deteriorate for the Vaigai River?
- The deterioration of the Vaigai River happened at the end of the 18th century when the British started deforesting the Megamalai region which acts as a major catchment for Vaigai.
- Consequently, the water flow in the river reduced gradually. As a result, a famine occurred and around 2 lakh people died in this region in 1876-77.
- Following the famine, the British Crown proposed diverting water from the Periyar and feeding it to the Vaigai through Periyar Dam. After the dam completion, the water from Periyar was successfully brought to the Vaigai and was revived again.
- Presently, due to the indiscriminate removal of sand from the river, whatever water flows into the Vaigai gets drained within a few days.
- Moreover, Megamalai as a Wildlife Sanctuary (WLS) also failed to withstand undue pressure. The sanctuary is devastated by the encroachers and the money-minded private estate owners which resulted in the degradation of the existing forests.
How will the declaration of Srivilliputhur-Megamalai Tiger Reserve help?
It is expected that the declaration of Srivilliputhur-Megamalai as a Tiger Reserve will help protect wild animals and the natural forests, their habitats which act as watersheds.
- This will provide protection to Megamalai, the Vaigai River’s primary catchment, in turn helping water levels to rise in the river.
Also read: Tiger reserves of India
About Srivilliputhur-Megamalai Tiger Reserve:
- Srivilliputhur-Megamalai Tiger Reserve is the fifth Tiger Reserve of Tamil Nadu and the 51st tiger reserve of India.
- It was jointly declared as a Tiger Reserve by the Centre and Tamil Nadu governments in February 2021
- For this, the Megamalai WLS and the adjoining Srivilliputhur WLS were clubbed together.
- Vegetation: It has a mix of tropical evergreen forests and semi-evergreen forests, dry deciduous forests and moist mixed deciduous forests, grassland.
- Meghamalai has a large population of ungulates (hoofed mammals), spotted deer, Indian gaurs, wild boars and other carnivores.
- The adjoining Srivilliputhur hosts grizzled giant squirrels, flying squirrels, leopards, Nilgiri tars, jungle cats, Sambars, elephants, lion-tailed macaques and many species of birds.
Source: Down To Earth