Neeru and the Nilgiris

Updated: Jan 23, 2020

Locally called Neeru, water of the Nilgiris in its springs and wetlands has been the fountainhead for two main rivers systems of South India. Today, with growing anthropogenic influences, there is a water crisis in the hills that needs our attention more than ever before.

Image credits: Gokul Halan

Once in twelve years, the Neelakurinji flower blossoms in Southern India, covering hills in a bright purple haze. This blue-purple bloom can be seen from miles away, rendering these hills with the name Nilgiris (Blue Mountains). Best known to the world outside, the Nilgiri hills are an iconic landscape harbouring a wide spectrum of ecosystems. These Hills are part of the Nilgiri Bio- Reserve (NBR), a UNESCO World Heritage site, chosen as India’s first bio-reserve in 1986. The NBR is among the highest mountains in the Western Ghats mountain chain with its peaks and plateaus bordering the states of Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Kerala.

The Nilgiri hills of Tamil Nadu are home to various indigenous people including the Kurumbas- Alu, Jenu, Mullu and Betta, Kasava, Irula, Toda, Kota, Kattunaika, Paniya, Badaga, Thoraiya Badaga and the Mountadden Chettis. Owing to their distinct culture, small and declining population occupying a rugged and difficult terrain, the Toda, Kota, Kurumba, Irular and Paniyar have been classified as PVTG (Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Group).