|Deer grazing i|
|an eagle perched on an old tree branch..|
|A bison ..|
But that was not how the Xmas of 2007 was going to be. Invited by our neighbour Adv Sabu Thomas, we went out to Thekkady and this is the catchment area of Mullaperiyar dam.
At 3.30 PM in the boat jetty at Thekkady we met our host Adv Sabu Thomas, whom we thought had missed on the way from Peermade to Thekkady in the afternoon of 25 Dec 2007. Sabu and wife Maya then herded all of us, his friends and relatives too, to the entrance of the jetty. Adv Sabu Thomas has been winning a lot of cases in Kerala for the Tamil Nadu govt and he is their silver eyed boy. He gets royal treatment in Periyar sanctuary - in the bargain we too
We got into the small boat, about 15 seater of the Tamil Nadu PWD dept and were off on our wild animal view trip royally. The driver of the boat Murali was eager to point us to the herds of deers, bisons, wild boars, tortoises, otters, the water birds and its nests with baby birds inside it. The stubs of trees which were submerged about 112 years back provided the stem for the birds to make these majestic nests in the midst of water. A royal trip of about 10 nautical miles right upto the Mullaperiyar dam. There were lot of things which I did not know of. It was very pleasant sitting next to the driver of the boat and asking him all sorts of doubts and questions, like a child asking it's parents. It was an inquisitive session getting to clear all doubts which would help me write this blog very accurately.
It was in 1884, Penny Cuic, an Irish gentleman, who was working with the British govt who first spotted the potential of the Periyar wildlife sanctuary and planned the project to dam the river ( even though the concept of using it for power generation came later). PennyCuic's intention was to dam the Periyar river and use it for irrigating the water scare parts of Tamil Nadu and protect the wild life around it for posterity. The project conceived in 1885 got over in 1895 costing about rupees forty three lacs of rupees ( about Rs 1000crores in present value).
Unlike the Iduki dam built by the Canadians, the Periyar dam, has the dam and the sluice gates for letting out the water separate. While going in the boat we could first sight the sluice gates, through which water is released to TamilNadu and then the dam which stores the water. The reservoir varies in it's depth from 30 feet at the boat landing to 130 feet near the dam. When we went the water was about 134 feet. At 138 ft the sluice gates are opened. Else this is great risk for the 112 year old dam built using limestone.
This is the main point of contention between the governments of TN and Kerala. Kerala wants to protect the wildlife sanctuary and the people living downstream while TN wants the dam to raise the water level and store more water to be used in the summer months to irrigate agricultural lands right upto Madurai. Even after many Supreme court cases, the issue has been left to Kerala and TN governments to decide among themselves by discussions. See the predicament of Tamil Nadu, it has to fight with Karnataka for water from Cauvery and with Kerala for water from the Periyar, what a sad state of affairs !! But compared to all other South Indian states Tamil Nadu is one of the most fast developing states. That speaks about the enterprise of the people there..
The water in the dam is spread over 10.21 sq miles while the forests are over 770 sq
miles. The catchment area of the dam is about 220 sq miles. Before being submerged, the Periyar area was dense forest. The tall trees which got submerged in the water even today stand up in the water, telling it's story of a hundred and twelve years under water plus it's another forty fifty years above water !! How many people and boats has it seen and how many rains and summer has it weathered?
ThePeriyar sanctuary is also an elephant preserve. Elephants come down from the forest to the  ; water side during summer months to drink water. We were unlucky in December, but our boat driver was telling us how just two days back he was fortunate enough to see eight elephants swimming across the reservoir, from one end to the other, right in front of the boat.
After an hour of boating, we werefortunate enough to go right upto the Mullaperiyar dam, usually visitors are not taken up to that point, we returned to our starting point. By 5.30 PM we were back in our car heading back for home. It was a memorable trip.
There are two places in Idukki district which I wanted to visit badly, Munnar and Mullapriyar. Mullaperiyar I have already done now, only Munnar is remaining. Having come to Idukki I would have felt real bad if I had not visited even one of these places.
The kids were eagerly looking for an outing during their Xmas holidays and Anila and I were so happy that we could take them for this unforgettable boating experience. Snaps and video clips will follow on this site as soon as I am able to download them from our canon digicam.
If you find the information given here was good enough to motivate you to plan the next holiday to Thekkady, do drop me a line to collect more details.