Nilgiri Ecosystem in Danger UPSC

Nilgiri Ecosystem in Danger


Peril in the hills: Extreme weather a danger for Nilgiri ecosystem

      WHY IN NEWS:

As conservationists and activists are fighting to protect forests and wilderness areas from being deforested, mined and diverted to “developmental” projects, there is another level of destruction happening to our last remaining wild spaces.

SYLLABUS COVERED: GS 3: Conservation of Biodiversity : Ecosystem


For PRELIMS it is important to go through the flora and fauna of Nilgiri .

For MAINS we have covered all the major points . Let us dive in !


Despite consecutive years of extreme precipitation over short periods in the Nilgiri Biosphere, hardly any step has been taken to address ecological security

Nilgiri Ecosystem in Danger

Hundreds of native trees get uprooted and washed away in landslides in the Avalanche valley region in the Nilgiri Hills. Photo: Godwin Vasanth Bosco Hundreds of native trees get uprooted and washed away in landslides in the Avalanche valley region #Nilgiri Ecosystem in Danger



The recent episode of extreme precipitation caused landslides have dealt a telling blow on these last remaining forest tracts.
  • Thousands of trees lay dead and strewn around the western parts of the Nilgiri Plateau in southern India.
  • Deep gashes scar ancient mountains, stand contrast to the lush green vegetation that they otherwise support.
  • Climate change is causing widespread collapse of ecosystems.

Carbon dioxide levels  hit a record-breaking 417 parts per million (ppm) in May 2020, highest in three million years.

  • Global warming caused sea level rise and the melting of polar ice caps and glaciers.


  • EXTREMITY : The steep increase in greenhouse gas concentrations has led to a surge in the frequency of extreme climate events.
  • CYCLONES : In the last four years, this region has been affected by eight tropical cyclones.
  • RAINFALL : The consecutive extreme rainfall events during the southwest monsoon periods of the last two years.
  • ADVERSITY : These bouts of intense storms have been interspersed with periods of severe droughts, heatwaves, deficient and failed monsoons.

On August 8, 2019, the Avalanche and Emerald valley regions received an unprecedented 900 millimetre (mm) rainfall within 24 hours.

  • BROKEN RECORDS : It broke the record for the highest rainfall in Tamil Nadu, by nearly twice the amount.
  • HIGHEST RAINFALL : Over four days, the region experienced close to 2,500 mm rainfall.
  • CONTRARY : Coimbatore, the nearest city in the plains of Tamil Nadu, receives 600 mm of rain annually.


  • The Kundha watershed bore a deluge that was four times the annual rainfall amount, over just four days.
  • The upper watershed of the Kundha river is a complex of several peaks above 2,400 m and broad deep valleys.

The river, which is a primary tributary to the Bhavani that feeds into the Cauvery, is fed by numerous streams .


  • Vast tracts of precious soil and shola ecology slipped away on either side of the watercourses.

Gone are the rich black soil layers topped with spongy humus that line the streams.   

  • Washed away are the dark moss and wild balsam covered rocks that shaped the flow of every stream;
  • Lost are the dwarf bamboo and forest kurinji (shrubs of blue flowers), ferns and orchids of the forest floor.
  • In place of these are deep cuts of gauged out Earth, revealing the underlying lateritic soil and rocks.

Nilgiri Ecosystem in Danger

(Left) An Aerides ringens orchid growing on a shola tree; (Right) Shola-grassland mosaic in the hills of the Nilgiri plateau, with the sholas growing in valleys and grasslands covering the slopes. 

SOURCES : DownToEarth



The cloud forest ecology, known as sholas, grows along the folds and valleys of these mountains.

  • They are old-growth vegetation.
  • These harbour several endemic and rare species of flora and fauna.
  • These naturally confined forests are already some of the most endangered forest types.


  • It is shocking that montane grassland stretches have also experienced large landslides.
  • Together, the shola-grassland mosaic is most adept at absorbing high rainfall amounts.

Shola-grassland release the water slowly throughout the year, giving rise to perennial streams.

  • Over a year they can experience 2,500-5,500 mm of rainfall.

This rainfall is intricately sequestered by complex hydrological anatomy that carefully lets down most of this water.

  • This is needed to support the ecology upstream.
  • The native tussock grasses are highly adapted to hold the soil strongly together on steep slopes.
  • However, even this ecology is now giving way under pressure from extreme weather events.
  • The shola-grassland mosaic ecology cannot withstand the tremendously high amounts of rainfall (over 2,400 mm) .

Nilgiri Ecosystem in Danger

Nilgiri Ecosystem in Danger:Record-breaking rainfall and landslides have made deep cuts into the Earth revealing the underlying soil and rocks. 

SOURCES : DownToEarth

  • A predominant view was the indiscriminate construction of roads and proliferating concretisation of the hills.
  • The actions invariably stem from places that have long lost their plant ecological cover — the global urban-industrial-agricultural complex.


  • The Kundha watershed region can be broadly divided into two — the higher slopes and the descending valleys.
  • Shola-grassland ecology dominates the higher slopes .

Various types of land uses- tea cultivation, vegetable farming, villages.

  • Non-native tree plantations dominating the descending valleys.
  • The descending valleys are covered with several dams and hydroelectric structures.

The Kundha Hydro-Electric Power Scheme is one of the largest hydropower generating installations in Tamil Nadu with 10 dams.

  • This includes several kilometres of underground tunnels and a capacity of 585 MW.
  • This system is now getting two more dams to generate an additional 500 MW.
  • It is disastrous to add more large dams and tunnels.

      IASbhai WINDUP: 

This signifies that climate change has reached a level that is beyond the capacity of the ecosystem and land resilience.

  • Despite the consecutive years of extreme precipitation hardly any step has been taken to address ecological security.
  • Building regulations stand to get eased and road expansion works continue in full swing.
     SOURCES:DownToEarth | Nilgiri Ecosystem in Danger

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