The Nilgiris Water

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Introduction to the Sigur Plateau
The Sigur Plateau is the northern part of the Nilgiris district with its western and northern boundaries adjoining Kerala and Karnataka. The 300m deep Moyar Gorge separates the Sigur Plateau from the Mysore Plateau. To the south of the Sigur Plateau is the Nilgiris Plateau. The average elevation of the Sigur plateau is 900 MSL. The boundaries of the Sigur plateau are the Moyar Gorge in the north, the Moyar River on the east, the Wynad district and the Nilgiris massif in the south.
There are five major streams in the Sigur plateau, namely, the Moyar River, the Sigur River, the Avarahalla River, the Kedarhalla River, and the Gundattihalla River. All these rivers originate in the Nilgiris plateau. The Nilgiris have several valley systems ranging in elevation between 1800 m and 2200 m drained by the Bhavani, Kundah, Hadathoraihalli, Kukalthorai halla, Sigur, Pykara, and other minor rivers some of which have been dammed up during the last five decades.
The rainfall in the Sigur plateau is quite variable with the western part of the plateau lying in a rain shadow region. West Sigur receives less than 500 mm annually, while the east part receives more than 1000 mm of rainfall. The difference in rainfall also contributes to the dry deciduous forests in the west part of Sigur while the eastern part has more scrub jungle. All along the river courses, dense riparian forest are seen in both the west and east parts of the Sigur plateau. The scrub jungles of the eastern part are traditionally called the Pankadu. The Sigur plateau is a low rainfall marginal land with poor soils and till recent times, also had a low population density. The very fact that the area is largely of scrub vegetation makes it more suitable for pastoral activity. Before the forests became reserved, the area was open to free grazing and used by both agricultural groups from the Nilgiris and the Coimbatore plains.
Sigur has been impacted in many ways by influences from Karnataka on the north and Kerala on the west. The tribal people are predominantly Kasavas, Irulas, Jenukurumbas, Sholigas – they have close linkages with the neighboring states. The non-tribals are also seen in large numbers. There has been a huge influx of migrants from Kerala who have set up businesses and enterprises along the Bangalore – Ooty road. Presently most of the areas have been declared as Wildlife Sanctuary and Reserved forest. Human – wildlife conflicts are common.
The area is the northern part of the district touching the State of Karnataka and Kerala. There is major influence from the northern side of Karnataka and western side from Kerala. The tribal people are predominantly Kasavas, Irulas, Jenukurumbas, Sholigars – they have close linkages with the neighboring states. The non tribal - also seen in large numbers – a huge number has migrated from Kerala to set up business and enterprises and have thrived over the years – as this is the one of the main roads from Bangalore to Ooty. Presently most of the area has been declared as Wildlife Sanctuary and Reserved forest and human – wildlife conflicts are common. There is a strong school of thought that believes that tribal population ought to be displaced from this region for wildlife to progress. Research institutions such as the Bombay Natural History Society, Indian Institute of Science (Centre for Ecological Sciences have established field stations for decades in this area to study wildlife. Not a single institution has been able to effectively provide solutions to the people who have been living with wildlife in this area for generations. The area has been identified as a crucial corridor for the Indian Elephant [a largest population in south India]. There is a large extent of Revenue lands. There are proposals to extent the Wildlife Sanctuary towards Thengumarahada – which has been opposed by the present population and a stay order has stopped the handing over the reserve forestlands to the control of the Wildlife Warden.

Relief and drainage

The majority of the area is undulating with most of the areas at an altitude of 900 m, the land slopes for west towards east with a slight tilt towards the north. On the southern boundary of the Sigur plateau are seen the steep hills of the Nilgiris leading to the high plateau of 2000 meters. Towards the north is a deep gorge that has been cut deep by the river Moyar running west to east. The Moyar Gorge is also the boundary between the states of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. Bhavani and Moyar are the two important rivers. All the rivers and their tributaries originate from the Nilgiri plateau and were once perennial; the modified water regimes for purposes of power generation and irrigation have rendered some of these rivers seasonal and many water courses have also been altered by new canal systems

Climate and vegetation

This part of the Nilgiris has the lowest rain fall 40 cm which comes from seasonal rain of April - May. The western most part of this area is just touched by the South West Monsoon. The main rain is from the North East Monsoon. The average day temperatures are never very hot not going above 32 0 C and the lowest temperatures of winter are above 20 degree centigrade, the area is known for its pleasant climate.
The slopes of the leading from the Nilgiri Hills are covered with grassland on the top with sholas in the valleys. The slopes with ever green to dry deciduous, while the Sigur plateau is covered with scrub jungle, with the rivers valleys covered by riparian vegetation.


Since the majority of the area is covered with forests the dependence of the people is based on forests. The area used to shelter a population of more than 20,000 cattle, the caring of these scrub cattle and the collection of cattle dung used to be the major occupation. This has been on the decline due to policy of governing a protected area. Cultivation land is plenty – with the lands around Vazhaithotam having irrigation for the Sigur River. The construction of the Ooty Lake by the British is to provide perennial water along the Sigur river, but this water has been diverted to the Pykara Ultimate hydro electric project. The waters of Pykara are used for generation at Singara and then at Moyar powerhouse, hence these waters are not allowed for irrigation. The main waters of the Moyar are in the deep gorge, hence beyond the reach of all the villages other than Thengumarada, which is surrounded by the waters of the Moyar on three sides.


The areas are well connected by Tar Roads and have a good bus service. Tourists extensively use the main Ooty road and tour operators hence transport is available at any time of the day on this road. There is a restriction of use of the Masinagudi Kalhatti road after 11 pm to 6 am.

Agro Climatic Conditions of Sigur

This part of the Nilgiris has the lowest rainfall of 40 cm, which starts with the seasonal rain of April - May. The western most part of this area is just touched by the South West Monsoon. The main rain is from the North East Monsoon. This area is considered to be a rain shadow area and the vegetation of this area is very sensitive to the rains it receive. With the average day temperatures never very hot (not going above 32o Celsius and the lowest winter temperatures staying above 20o Celsius) the area is known for its pleasant and moderate climate.

Soils in Nilgiris

The soils commonly occurring are light yellow to reddish brown clay soils. Humus soils of about 0.5 m thick are confined to the areas covered by thick vegetation. The soils in the Nilgiris district are derived from the decomposition of rocks dominantly composed of Pyroxene gneisses interbanded with Pyroxene granulites and garnetiferous quartzofelspathic gneisses. The relatively low country around the massif is made up of hornblende biotite gneiss, biotite gneisses, micaceous and ferruginous quartzites with emplacement of ultrabasics like dunite, peridotite, pyroxenite, gabrro, and anorthosite. The soils of the higher elevations areas are lateritic in origin and are derived from charnockites known as Nilgiris gneiss. Climatic conditions favour intense chemical weathering of materials. White kaolin clay formed as a result of the decomposition of feldspars can be observed in many areas. The soils are at most times stained with black, marking the presence of ferromagnesian minerals. The soil is scattered with irregular oxidation stains giving it a deep red colour in some places, and yellow where the iron has been leached due to drainage.

Posted by: keystone       Category: NHW Home > Sigur Water       Updated: 2007-03-08 00:28:00


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