“The river has taught me to listen, and you will learn it from the river as well. The river knows everything, and everything can be learned from it. See, you've already learned this from the water: that it is good to strive downwards, to sink and to seek depth. The river is everywhere at once, at the source and the mouth, at the waterfall, the ferry, the rapids, the sea, and the mountains. It is everywhere at once” - Siddhartha, Hesse.
All the rivers in the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve start their journey from mountain sholas, grasslands or wetlands. Fairly good rainfall in the region accounts for the countless small brooks which run for some distance but get absorbed by the top soil of the slopes, before they gain enough strength to flow further. These brooks become rivers and provide our drinking water, nourish our agriculture, and support many endangered species. While each river is unique, all rivers are part of larger systems, and have common characteristics that enable us to understand how they function and how to protect them.
Few rivers of the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve are briefed below:
Pykara River originates in the Mukurthi peak and passes through a hilly tract, generally keeping to the north and turns to the west after reaching the Nilgiri plateau's edge. There are a number of falls formed by this
river, and the last two falls of 55 meters and 61 meters respectively, are known as Pykara falls. After reaching Wayanad, this river turns westward and has a fall near Theppakadu, off the Gudalur-Mysore road. From here, this river is known as the Moyar River and continues its journey towards the east, where it joins the Bhavani River at 2 Denaickankottai. Finally this river ends at the Bhavanisagar dam. Pykara is the largest river in the Nilgiris District. It is of sacred value to the Toda community.
Sigur River springs up from the Udhagamandalam slopes. Two streams the Malkod from Pykara Hill and the Billikallu halla from Billikal betta join to form this river. After a point it is joined by Sandy Nallah stream,
flowing towards Kalhatti, which is about 9 kms north-west of Udhagamandalam. Here it drops 52 m and forms a beautiful waterfall (Kalhatti water falls), after which it flows along the Sigur Ghat and finally
joins the Moyar River.
Bhavani River rises in the Upper Nilgiri plateau, drains the Attapadi valley in Kerala, collects the waters of the Kundah river and flowing past Mettupalayam joins Moyar river at Bhavanisagar. Further on it reaches
Cauveri river at Bhavani town after a 217 km flow. About 90% of the river's water is used for agriculture. Pesticides from the tea estates of the Nilgiris District seep into the Bhavani. It is estimated that tea estates and
coffee pulp houses add about 1.5 million litres per day (MLD) of effluents to the river every day.
Pandiar River originates in the grasslands on the northern slopes of the Mukurthi National Park and joins with the Punnapuzha river, a tributary of Karimpuzha. This is one of the last free flowing rivers of South India
which has not been dammed. Karimpuzha River originates from the western slopes of the NBR, near
the Mukurthi Peak. Cherupuzha river, which joins the Karimpuzha near Karulai, originates from the forests to the north-west of Upper Bhavani 4 reservoir. This river is the largest tributary of the Chaliyar (Beypore
river). The Karimpuzha joins the Chaliyar at Chaliyar mukku, near Nilambur town in Kerala and flows west to join the Arabian Sea. This river is famous for it’s freshwater fish species diversity. Important endemic fish, such as the Tor malabaricus and Glyptothorax annandalei have been described from this river.
Siruvani River originates from the Siruvani Hills and is one of the tributaries of the Bhavani. The Siruvani waterfalls and the dam named after it are located 37 kms to the west of Coimbatore. Water from the
Siruvani river is renowned for its taste and mineral properties and is one of the main water sources for Coimbatore city.Coonoor River originates from the south eastern slopes of Doddabetta range and collecting waters from streams in and around Wellington, flows through Coonoor ghats to feed the Bhavani river at Nellithorai near Mettupalayam. The Kallar river collecting waters from the Catherine Falls (76m) below Kotagiri on it’s westward flow meets at the same confluence.
Kabini River is a confluence of the Panamaram river (originating from Lakkidi Hills, Kerala) and Mananthavady river (originating from Tondarmudi hills, Kerala). After flowing through Mananthavady town,
the Mananthavady river joins the Panamaram river near Payyampally. Two kilometers from Payyampally, the Kabani River forms an island called Kuruva Island, spreading over 950 acres containing diverse and
unique flora and fauna. Downstream from the island, another tributary of the Kabini River, called the Kalindi, joins it. The Kabani flows through Kerala only for a stretch of 8 kms and turns eastward to join the Cauvery
river at Tirumakudal in Narasipur, Karnataka. The Cauvery finally empties into the Bay of Bengal.