Case Study On Kadalundi Community Reserve In Kerala Simple

Community and conservation reserves in southern India: status, challenges and opportunities

ArunKanagavel 1, RevatiPandya 2, Cynthia Sinclair 3, AdityaPrithvi 4 & Rajeev Raghavan 5

1,2,3 Wildlife Information Liaison Development Society (WILD), 96, Kumudham Nagar, Vilankurichi Road, Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu 641035, India

4 Department of Econometrics, University of Madras, Tholkapiar Campus, Chepauk, Chennai, Tamil Nadu 600005, India

1,5 Conservation Research Group (CRG), St. Albert’s College, Banerji Road, Kochi, Kerala 682018, India

5 Systematics, Ecology & Conservation Laboratory, Zoo Outreach Organization (ZOO), 96 KumudhamNagar, Vilankurichi Road, Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu 641035, India

1 (corresponding author), 2, 3,4, 5

Abstract: Community Reserves and Conservation Reserves illustrate a community-based co-management model, a first of its kind within the protected area (PA) network of India.  Such reserves mark a shift towards an inclusive and decentralised approach within PAs in the country.  Three such reserves in southern India: the Aghanashini Lion-tailed Macaque Conservation Reserve, Kadalundi-Vallikunnu Community Reserve and Thirupaddaimaradur Conservation Reserve, were selected to examine the reasons for their creation, management and stakeholder dynamics, with an aim to review their productivity and potential replicability.  The study was carried out through semi-structured interviews with Forest Department officials, local community members and researchers working in the three reserves.  Insufficient interaction between the stakeholders appeared to be a common issue in two reserves.  The functioning of the reserves was also influenced, and in some cases negatively affected, by local politics.  Financial stability was crucial in the functioning of reserves, as was consistency in interaction and appropriate monitoring of management plans. These elements are recommended for sustaining such reserves and creating community-based management systems for conservation, to support an inclusive approach to PA management.

Keywords:Aghanashini, Forest Department, Kadalundi-Vallikunnu, local community, non-governmental organization, researcher, stakeholder assessment, Thirupaddaimaradur, Western Ghats.


Editor: Anonymity requested.           Date of publication: 26 December 2013 (online & print)

Manuscript details: Ms # o3541 | Received 27 February 2013 | Final received 10 December 2013 | Finally accepted 11 December 2013

Citation:Kanagavel, A., R. Pandya, C. Sinclair, A. Prithvi & R. Raghavan (2013). Community and conservation reserves in southern India: status, challenges and opportunities. Journal of Threatened Taxa 5(17): 5256–5265;

Copyright: ©Kanagavelet al 2013. Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 UnportedLicense.JoTT allows unrestricted use of this article in any medium, reproduction and distribution by providing adequate credit to the authors and the source of publication.

Funding: The study was undertaken with financial support from the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF)-Western Ghats Small Grants Program through the AshokaTrust for Research in Ecology and Environment (ATREE), Bengaluru, India.

Competing Interest: Authors declare no competing interest. Funders had no role in study design, collection and interpretation of data and manuscript writing.  One of the authors (CS) is currently working with CEPF-ATREE. However she was not associated with this organization, during the time, the study was carried out.

Author Contribution: AK and RR were involved in designing the study. AK, CS, AP and RR undertook the surveys. AK, RP, CS, AP and RR were involved in manuscript preparation.

Author Details: ArunKanagavel, keen on research that would inform conservation action, is interested in social dimensions that influence perception of nature and its conservation, and the potential of local communities in linking biodiversity conservation and protected areas.  RevatiPandya is interested in natural resource management, its plurality and understanding the same through stakeholder perceptions as a basis for conflict resolution. In relation to this, she is specifically interested in the potential of protected areas in conservation and exploring the nature of collaborative management.  Cynthia Sinclair has a Masters in Conservation Biology and is interested in human-wildlife interaction, approaches to sustainable development, livelihood issues in forests, forest governance and its relationship to conservation. She is currently working with the CEPF Western Ghats Program. AdityaPrithvi is interested in understanding the effects of income disparity in societies and its effect on perception towards day to day events including wildlife conservation. He is also interested in the interaction between the various strata of society.  Rajeev Raghavanis interested in interdisciplinary research focused on generating information and developing methods to support decision-making especially in freshwater ecosystems.

Acknowledgements: The first author would like to thank BhaskarAcharya, Vijayalakshmi, P.A. Kanagavel, Anvar Ali and ShrinivasKadabagere for their help and support during the study; VarunVikraman for volunteering on the surveys and SethuParvathy for her suggestions on the manuscript. The second author would like to thank MamataPandya for her comments on the manuscript. The authors would like to thank the two anonymous reviewers and the Subject Editor for their comments and suggestions that have improved this article. 

This article forms part of a special series on the Western Ghats of India, disseminating the results of work supported by the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF), a joint initiative of l’AgenceFrançaise de Développement, Conservation International, the European Commission, the Global Environment Facility, the Government of Japan, the MacArthur Foundation and the World Bank. A fundamental goal of CEPF is to ensure civil society is engaged in biodiversity conservation. Implementation of the CEPF investment program in the Western Ghats is led and coordinated by the Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment (ATREE).

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Protected areas (PA) for biodiversity conservation based on the preservationist principle have affected millions of people and their livelihoods in India over the past 40 years (Madhusudan& Raman 2003; Wani & Kothari 2007).  More than 100,000 people have been relocated in various parts of the country for the creation of PAs and denied access to traditional lands and resource-use (Kothari et al. 1996, cited in Wani & Kothari 2007).  Forced relocations have morphed into induced relocation procedures wherein communities have no real choice, since a driving factor—such as severe restriction on resource usage—induces them to accept resettlement packages (Lasgorceix& Kothari 2009).  A further five million people in India face eviction due to policy amendments (Kothari 2004, cited in Brockington et al. 2006).  Moreover, adoption of the recent Indian Wildlife (Protection) Amendment Act 2006 will see an increase in these figures, as it calls for resettlement of people, including indigenous people, from areas that are found to be critical tiger habitats (MoEF 2010a).

In synchrony with international mechanisms, there has been an increasing focus in India to integrate local communities into biodiversity conservation (MoEF 2010a,b) through the setup of various policies that assist communities in sustaining livelihoods without compromising biodiversity conservation (Pathak et al. 2006).  The National Forest Policy of 1988 and Joint Forest Management guidelines helped set up the Joint Forest Management programme which supports local livelihoods and conservation of natural resources.  The Panchayat(Extension to the Scheduled Areas) Act, 1996, empowers local traditional institutions by allowing them to decide and participate in the governance of issues concerning the utilisation of non-timber forest produce (NTFP).  The Scheduled Tribes and other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006 recognises the rights of forest-dwelling communities and empowers them with land-entitlement, utilisation of natural resources within PAs and informed consent during resettlement procedures. The Biological Diversity Act 2002 and the Wildlife Action Plan (2002–2016) strengthen the role of communities in the utilisation and management of biodiversity both within and outside PAs.  The most promising of these official initiatives is the Wildlife (Protection) Amendment Act, 2002, which allows for the creation of Conservation Reserves and Community Reserves as a third type of formal PA other than National Parks and Wildlife Sanctuaries (MoEF 2010c; Kanagavel et al. 2013).

Community Reserves and Conservation Reserves

Conservation Reserves (IUCN Category VI) are community co-managed biodiversity rich areas, which are particularly close to existing PAs and serve as a buffer and/or corridor to establish a continuous PA network.  Conservation Reserves can be declared only on government-owned lands (MoEF2010c).  Community Reserves (IUCN Category V) on the other hand can be set up on biodiversity abundant lands that are privately or community-owned, and are managed by the individual(s)/communities in possession of the area.  Both these reserves allow for extraction of natural resources, the levels of which are governed by a multi-stakeholder Reserve Management Committee (MoEF 2010c).

A Conservation Reserve Management Committee must consist of representatives from the local village Panchayat, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), and the Department of Agriculture and Animal Husbandry.  Similarly, a Community Reserve Management Committee is to consist of five representatives nominated by the local Village Panchayat or the Gram Sabha, and one representative each from the State Department of Forest and Wildlife.  A chairman would be elected by the committee who would also serve as a Wildlife Warden of the reserve (MoEF2010c).

These reserves mark a shift towards a more inclusive and decentralised approach within the PA network, where the management entails participation of multiple stakeholders, which is the emphasis of community-based management (Agrawal & Ribot 1999; Ribot 2004).

There are more than 58 Conservation Reserves in India, 34 of which are concentrated in Jammu and Kashmir (WII 2010a).  The TiruppadaimarathurConservation Reserve in Tamil Nadu, a 0.03km2 heronry, is the smallest of its kind (TFD 2007). The largest is the 299.52km2AghanashiniLion-tailed Macaque Conservation Reserve in Karnataka, which has the largest population of these ‘Endangered’ macaques in the world (Kumara et al. 2008).  There are currently five community reserves in India (WII 2010b) of sizes ranging between 1.5km2(Kadalundi Community Reserve, Kerala; The Hindu 2007) and 12.67km2 (Lalwan Community Reserve Punjab; DFWP 2010).

KokareBellurCommunity Reserve, Aghanashini Lion-tailed Macaque Conservation Reserve, Bedthi Conservation Reserve, Hornbill Conservation Reserve and Shalmala Riparian Ecosystem Conservation Reserve in Karnataka, and the BhorkadaConservation Reserve in Maharashtra together encompass 420.59km2, representing 0.0025% of the entire Western Ghats.  In spite of a large number of such reserves existing in the country, very little information is available concerning why they were set up, what their management approaches are, and what interactions exist among their stakeholders.  Through this study, carried out in two conservation reserves and one community reserve in southern India, we attempt to fill this knowledge gap by trying to understand the management approaches adopted, interactions between stakeholders, challenges faced and potential opportunities.

Materials and Methods

The study was carried out during January and February 2012.  Interviews were conducted with local communities, conservation researchers and Forest Department (FD) officials in three reserves located in different states in southern India, viz., the Aghanashini Lion-tailed Macaque Conservation Reserve (ACR) in Karnataka, Kadalundi-Vallikunnu Community Reserve (KCR) in Kerala and Thirupaddaimaradur Conservation Reserve (TCR) in Tamil Nadu (Fig. 1).

Aghanashini Lion-tailed Macaque Conservation Reserve

This reserve located in the Sirsi-HonnavarraForest Division of the Uttara Kannada District, Karnataka supports the largest population of the ‘Endangered’ Lion-tailed Macaque Macacasilenus, comprising more than 500 individuals in 31 groups (Kumara et al. 2008).   In 2008, a plan was submitted to the Principal Chief Conservator of Forests, Department of Forest and Wildlife, Karnataka, and the Western Ghats Task Force Committee to declare the area as a Conservation Reserve (Kumara 2011). The Deputy Conservator of Forests, Karnataka resubmitted a new proposal that included new sensitive areas along the AghanashiniRiver, prioritised through detailed surveys that incorporated the occurrence of threatened and endemic species, critical corridors and threats (Dandekar 2011; Kumara 2011).  The reserve reportedly faced initial opposition from politicians towards establishment due to confusion over resource-utilization rights by local communities (The Times of India 2010).  On 13 June 2011 ,the reserve spanning across 299.52km2 was formally declared and was to be managed in collaboration with the FD and gram panchayatswithout restricting resource use (The Times of India 2010; Kumara 2011).

Kadalundi-Vallikunnu Community Reserve

Spread across 1.5km2, the Kadalundi-Vallikunnuestuary located in Kozhikode (Calicut) and Malappuramdistricts of Kerala State is the first Community Reserve of India, declared in 2007 (Chitharanjan 2011).  A wintering ground for migratory birds; nearly 110 species of avifauna including the ‘Critically Endangered’ Spoon-billed Sandpiper Eurynorhynchuspygmeus, Lesser Sand Plover Charadriusmongolus,Bar-tailed Godwit Limosalapponica and Crab Plover Dromasardeola have been recorded at this estuary which is surrounded by patches of mangroves (The Hindu 2007; Aarifet al. 2011; Images 2,3).  The estuary faced several threats from sand mining, dumping of wastes, coir retting (the process of segregating fibre found in coconut husks out of coir; see Rajan & Abraham 2007), defoliation, collection of oysters and mussels, as well as infrastructure development(Remani et al. 1989; Nair 2007; Aarifet al. 2011).  The Kadalundi-Vallikunnu Community Reserve (KCR) was set up not only to reduce these threats but also to promote it as a birding destination and improve local livelihoods through tourism (Nair 2007; The Times of India 2011).  The government reaffirmed that the reserve would not pose a threat to local livelihoods and would promote community participation (The Hindu 2009a). Activities like setting up of rest houses, watch towers for bird watching, a museum on mangroves and boating were part of the management plan.  Tourist guides were also to be engaged from the local communities.  A coir factory outside the mangrove area was started by the KCR management committee to compensate for loss of livelihood opportunities after the formation of the reserve.

The Reserve Management Committee headed by the KadalundiPanchayat is managed by six members, three from the VallikunnuPanchayat, two from KadalundiPanchayat and a forester from the Thamarassery range of the Kerala Forest Department (The Hindu 2009b). The official formulation of this committee reportedly took two years due to a power struggle between the Kadalundi and Vallikunnupanchayats which was resolved after the intervention of the Forest Minister of Kerala, as per which it was decided that the chair of the committee would be rotated between the twoPanchayats (Protected Area Update 2008; The Hindu 2009b).  In the year 2009, funds were reportedly released by the central government to formulate reserve management plans to realise the above-mentioned aims after conducting a participatory rural appraisal (PRA) with the local communities (see The Hindu 2009c).  However, the formulated management plan was reportedly not accepted by the state government and these initiatives have not yet begun (The Times of India 2011).

Thirupaddaimaradur Conservation Reserve

This reserve, around the village of Thirupaddaimaraduris situated on the banks of the river Thamirabarani, 30km away from the city of Tirunelveli in Tamil Nadu.  This was the first Conservation Reserve in India, set up in 2005 to primarily protect birds around the village (The Hindu 2005).  The reserve which serves as a nesting ground for 200–400 pairs of Painted Storks Mycterialeucocephalaand egrets is managed reportedly by a committee composed “of the public, forest department, NGOs, scientists, member of the legislative assembly (MLA) and the Panchayat president” (The Hindu 2005). With the reforestation initiative undertaken by the FD, which included participation from the local community, and initiatives of the panchayat such as banning the use of firecrackers and rehabilitating chicks that fall off nests, the conservation regime at the reserve has begun to improve (Images 4,5). Awareness campaigns and exposure visits for the local communities to the community-managed Koonthankulam Bird Sanctuary, Tirunelveli District, undertaken by the FDhelped to improve their understanding of community-based conservation.


At ACR, one FD official, two locals and a team of three representatives from a local NGO were interviewed. At KCR, two FD officials, four locals (two each from Kadalundiand Vallikunnu) and two researchers were interviewed. At the TCR, two FD officials, two local community members and two researchers were interviewed.  The researchers interviewed were those who had visited, worked, or were working either in the reserve or in the larger landscape.

Interviews were mostly undertaken in person, wherein they were recorded using a digital recorder and transcribed. In cases where it was not possible to meet respondents in person, either telephonic interviews or interviews via electronic mail were undertaken.  Given the lack of basic information on the management of these reserves, semi-structured interviews (Appendix 1) with open-ended questions that allowed for detailed discussion were used.  The respondents were first asked to describe the reserve and the reason for its setup. The role of the concerned stakeholder in the reserve and the roles of other stakeholders and their interaction with them were then inquired.  Specific questions were asked regarding whether and how the FD officials, researchers and local communities were involved in reserve declaration. The respondents were then asked about reserve management, people involved in the management, how management plans were decided, and how the reserve management committee was chosen. Information on the frequency of committee meetings was also sought.  Finally, respondents were asked to provide information on any difficulties that were faced with respect to the establishment or running of these reserves and whether they had any suggestions which could help in the setting up and implementation of similar reserves, elsewhere.

The stakeholder interviews were summarised as per specific issues. Any difference in perceptions within and among stakeholders havebeen highlighted.



While two reserves (TCR, KCR) were set up to conserve the area from localised threats, one (ACR) was set up against the possible construction of a dam. While two of the reserves (TCR, KCR) were set up to conserve the bird diversity, the third (ACR) was set up to conserve a threatened primate and specialised ecosystems. Only one (ACR) was set up after rigorous prioritization based on ecological parameters. While KCR was setup to improve livelihoods through tourism, tourism initiatives at TCR and ACR were targeted following reserve declaration.  Two (ACR, KCR) of the reserve facilitators conducted a PRA with local communities before they were declared.  Both ACR and KCR faced initial hurdles from local communities and politicians.  At two reserves (KCR and TCR), which were set up nearly five years ago, stakeholder interaction was absent, and the form of participation by local communities was largely that of abstaining from resource use.

Aghanashini Lion-tailed Macaque Conservation Reserve (ACR)

ACR was identified by designating potential sites based on their forest cover, priority species and ecosystems, and a threat index from across the district of Uttara Kannada. It aimed to protect the Lion-tailed Macaque, Myristicaswamps and newly described amphibian species and the entire landscape from the impending threat of dams.  PRA and community mapping were undertaken by the respondents to understand the occurrence of priority species, types and utilization of NTFPs, changes in the area over time, human-animal conflicts, and, the  perceptions of local communities towards conservation and the sites they would like to protect.  The resulting information on the ecological, and primarily the economic benefits of conserving the priority sites were conveyed to decision makers.

Non-governmental organisations (NGO) lobbied for the formation of the reserve through presentations made to several state ministers including the Forest Minister and Chief Minister of the Government of Karnataka, and with support from the Director of the Tiger Task Force, the area was declared as a Conservation Reserve.

Our surveys revealed that while one respondent from the local community was aware of reserve demarcation since the NGO had approached the individual and discussed the plans of the FD and their organization’s, another was unaware.  A continuous association of over 30 years through empowering the local communities in sustainably harvesting NTFPs and value addition assisted the NGO team in garnering the participation of local communities. The reserve is currently in the process of setting up its management committee, which would consist of representatives from the local community, FD and the relevant NGO.  Two such committees would be chosen to manage the lower and upper part of the reserve, as the spatial distance would make it difficult for locals from both parts of the reserve to meet at a common place. Interested local individuals would be chosen as committee members from the Village Forest Committee and Joint Forest Management Committee.

Local respondents stated that they mainly depended on the forests for firewood, which remained unaffected after the reserve declaration.  The local respondents’ contribution to the conservation of the reserve was by abstaining from hunting and tree felling and informing officials about offences. The members of the NGO stated that the priority of local communities was not in conserving tigers but the sustainable use and conservation of NTFPs and issues like education and health. They however stated that the FD was not very interested in collaborative management and some officials may not be willing to convert Reserve Forests to protected areas with enhanced protection, as it would lead to a loss of benefits for the FD.

Both respondents from the local community stated that there was minimum interaction with the FD, and that the FD officials walked through the settlements once in a while and distributed money to them under the Joint Forest Management program.  On the other hand, the FD respondent stated that their responsibility was to serve as the administrator of the reserve, which was a joint effort between them and the local communities, and that the FD would provide support to local communities in undertaking conservation activities.

Kadalundi-Vallikunnu Community Reserve (KCR)

All the respondents were aware of the purpose behind the establishment of the reserve, as an attempt to protect the estuarine biodiversity.  However, the researchers who were interviewed perceived that the reserve was also set up to reduce resource utilization, primarily of mangroves since the locals wanted to fell them in their land, thereby protecting the avifauna and associated tourism.  In contrast, the FD official stated that the reserve was setup to safeguard local livelihoods while attempting to improve the estuary in parallel. The respondents stated that bird watchers, “environmental lovers”, Panchayat, NGOs, FD, the Kozhikode District Collector and state government were involved in declaring the reserve.  The researchers stated that local communities were not interested and protested against the reserve declaration due to the assumption that their resource utilization would be restricted.

The respondents’ views towards reserve ownership differed.  While the FD stated that the reserve land belonged to private individuals and only the river belonged to the FD, local communities stated that the land belonged to them, while a researcher stated that both the government and panchayat owned the land.  The local community was indeed part of a PRA exercise wherein individuals living within 200m of the estuary were inquired about land ownership, their education qualification and livelihoods.  It was stated that thereserve boundary was demarcated by the FD based on the availability of the mangroves and land availability, with little input from the local community.

Most of the respondents stated that resource extraction was not curbed after the reserve establishment. One of the researchers stated that resource utilization had not changed but coir retting was discontinued, whereas the other researcher stated that hunting and coir retting were “stopped” while “sand mining and fishing continued”.  The former also stated that fish and avian diversity had reduced probably due to land-use changes and spread of mangroves.

While half of the respondents knew that a committee managed the reserve, one individual from the local community stated, “There is no management. Nothing has been done here”. Similarly one of the researchers claimed to have no idea of its existence and the other researcher stated that the communities did not support the committee since their perceptions were not considered; they did not have any role and was nominated by the government and not by them.  It was stated that since the PRA exercise, no other activities have been undertaken at the reserve and the Government did not accept the draft management plan.

The much-publicised difference between the Kadalundiand Vallikkunnupanchayatsduring the reserve committee’s formulation was stated as due to the panchayats being managed by opposing political parties.  Since most of the area of the reserve fell within Vallikunnu, this panchayat demanded for a larger representation in the committee.  However it was decided that there would be equal representation from both panchayatsand that the chairman would be elected from Kadalundi, which led to the reserve’s non-functional state from an imbalance of power.  Moreover, it was stated that currently the committee was led by the opposition political party, which was why the ruling party wanted to dissolve the existing committee.

The committee is said to have employed two to four guides/watchers from the local communities whose salaries had not been paid to date.  Local communities stated that they had no role in the management of the area while the FD official stated that no stakeholder was currently involved in the reserve’s management due to unavailability of funds.  While one researcher stated that there was no specific role for the local community towards the management, another pointed out that being part of the committee represented their aspirations but activities needed to be generated to foster their role.  Members of the local community felt that the FD had to do more work to make the reserve functional, and though they did not have any expectations from the reserve, they did not want to lose rights over their land and resources.  They also perceived that there was no relationship with the FD, since there was no activity in the reserve.  A researcher said that there was no regular interaction between the local stakeholders and FD, who did not make any significant contribution other than setting up sign boards and conducting workshops with students.

Thirupaddaimaradur Conservation Reserve (TCR)

The primary reason for reserve declaration was the intensive sand mining undertaken by locals and outsiders on the riverbanks, which threatened the safety of the village, as the sand functioned as a barrier when the river flooded.  Secondly, the trees around the village supported numerous resident and migrant birds including Asian OpenbillAnastomusoscitans, Black-headed Ibis Threskiornismelanocephalus and cormorants Phalacrocorax spp. that nest in large numbers. Only local communities cited the former reason whereas the latter, which was instrumental in its declaration as a Conservation Reserve, was stated by all the stakeholders.  A retired Supreme Court Judge, a resident of the village was stated to have played a pivotal role in the area’s declaration as a Conservation Reserve. A local respondent stated that the Judge and the Principal Chief Conservator of Forests aided in reserve declaration, while the respondent contributed by providing a checklist of avifauna.

Although, initiatives of tree planting to prevent soil erosion began in 1996, it became successful only after 1999 with financial assistance from the Judge and the provision of saplings by the FD.  Post reserve declaration, another planting initiative was taken up, which was managed by two staff from the local community employed by the FD, who also monitored the reserve and guided tourists.  Except for small quantities for use by the local community, sand mining was subsequently discontinued. Respondents from the local community stated that they contributed to reserve management by not hunting birds, initiating fires or using firecrackers, and disallowed outsiders from such activities.  A respondent from the FD also supported this statement, but argued that firecrackers had not reduced and their use during festivals and special occasions resulted in reduced avian abundance.  The locals were also involved in rescuing chicks that fell out of nests, which were subsequently rehabilitated by the FD at the residence of the Judge in the village.

While one individual from the community stated that grazing had stopped after reserve declaration, the other stated the reverse.  A FD respondent mentioned that grazing was the biggest problem to the reforestation initiative, and that fines were imposed on livestock owners to reduce it in the reserve limits.  Fencing was also initiated especially to protect freshly planted saplings. De-fencing was undertaken when the plants had grown sufficiently.

A reserve management committee consisting of the local community and FD was set up.  The local respondents stated that village elders as well as the panchayathead represented the local community in the committee, whose meetings were conducted at the village temple. Since 2005, there had been two meetings but none in the last five years.  The FD officials stated that due to a lack of funds there was nothing to be discussed by the committee.  The FD had previously provided loans to the locals through the village forest committee, which was subsequently discontinued.  It was stated that the judge financially supported numerous initiatives in the reserve including the provision of basic salaries for the forest watcher who was not on the permanent payroll of the FD until recently.

Local respondents felt that getting the village declaredas a Conservation Reserve had been largely beneficial for them, as tourism had improved their local economy and brought recognition to their small village.  To help tourists, a small guesthouse, financially supported by the judge was also constructed.  More such amenities, like watchtowers and benches in the temple premises, have been proposed to be built, when funds are available.

Researchers helped document the biodiversity and formulate the Reserve Management Plan.  They are currently involved in assessing bird diversity, in conservation education and in bat surveys with the participation of local children.

Current and future challenges

The challenges commonly faced at all the three reserves were the lack of appropriate interaction between the local communities and FD, absence of a follow up to management plans, consequential arguments among stakeholders on the lack of their execution and unstable revenue.  A local respondent from ACR mentioned that there was an increase in tourists from urban areas whichwas a menace to them.

Specifically, the respondents stated that politicians disturbed the functioning of KCR, which was referred to as a “paper park”.  In this reserve, no scientific mechanisms existed for the sustainable utilization of natural resources that it allowed for. There was a lack of facilitators to solve issues within and among stakeholders.  Garbage was disposed off within the reserve boundaries and one of the respondents stated “the local communities lack awareness about the cons of such disposal”.

Suggestions for setting up similar reserves

Respondents stated that facilitators should know the landscape, concerned local communities and the FD well, and maintain a good relationship with stakeholders.  Before reserve declaration, relevant stakeholders need to be identified.  Avenues for capacity building for local communities and their organizations (panchayat) need to be opened, and empowered through the provision of opportunities.  Opportunities and incentives (like ecotourism, value addition of NTFPs) need to be created for local communities to participate in the management. Local communities cannot always be expected to participate in an initiative which may not give them any benefits.  The members of the reserve committee should also have access to a regular source of income.  Political involvement in the reserve should be kept to a minimum, and for declaring such a reserve the government could be approached with a motivated and mobilized citizen group.

As a researcher pointed out “factors like threat index, ecological and corridor values may not be relevant to the common man living inside the reserve”. Since the priority of stakeholders differed, one needed to approach each of them differently, not only through an ecological rationale, but a socio-economic one as well.  A respondent from KCR suggested that such reserves in general should not be declared if they were to be inactive, reduced to “paper parks” and being a financial burden on the government.


Care needs to be exercised while extrapolating the results of this study to other Community Reserves and Conservation Reserves in India, given that this study only deals with a few such reserves in southern India and involves a small sample of respondent stakeholders.

In two out of three reserves, there was major support from local communities.  There was an absence of dedicated financial support for these PAs. Protected areas like Community and Conservation Reserves need continuous, year-round financial support due to their collaborative nature, which in order to sustain, requires periodical stakeholder-meetings and monitoring of the initiatives set up. A system of trust funds and ensuring an inflow of money to these funds from livelihood initiatives like tourism or private donors (McNeely 1994) could ensure much-needed financial sustainability that these reserves lack. Tourism initiatives have been proposed at all the three surveyed reserves to engage the community and generate income for them as well as the reserve.  However, this needs to be carefully assessed since the financial input from tourism varies among PAs and could support their management only in certain cases (Karanth& DeFries 2011), and also because tourism has potentially negative environmental and social impacts, which need to be carefully managed.  Promising livelihood options to local communities needs to be done sensitively.  The attitude of local communities towards KCR could have resulted from such promises not being fulfilled.

Recognition of differences within local communities and among stakeholder interests, including those within the management committee is vital.  This aids in local involvement in management and conflict resolution to effectively manage PAs (McNeely 1994; Agrawal & Gibson 1999).  At TCR for example, the perceived goal for reserve creation was not entirely consistent among all stakeholders.

Political differences have affected the formation and functioning of the reserve management committee at KCR where such differences surfaced when the committee was to be formed and, continued thereafter.  If the local panchayatsare to be a part of reserve management, the tenure of such stakeholders in the committee should be set accordingly. In the case where two or more panchayats are involved, adequate representation must be allocated based on the extent of the reserve within the respective panchayats.  Also, monitoring the management committees’ functionality would need to be a part of the protocol since its formation.

The reserve management committee has the freedom of creating the management plan with the help of its committee members.  This, however, calls for developing protocols for stakeholder interactions, which would aid in the efficient implementation and management of committee plans.  Multi-stakeholder management committees enable initiation of such interaction, yet the productivity and sustainability of the same depends on stakeholder interest and incentives.  While collaborative management within other PAs (national parks and sanctuaries) may not exist officially there have been initiatives in this regard, based on stakeholder interest and trust.  At PeriyarTiger Reserve in Kerala, for example, reserve officials have worked with the villagers to develop employment opportunities through community-managed ecotourism (Lockwood et al. 2006). Villagers have also voluntarily taken up patrolling the reserve, managing tourist inflow and using traditional skills and systems to manage various initiatives.  Reserve officials have considered integrating villagers into reserve management.

Consistency in interactions prior and subsequent to the formation of the committee also needs to be considered and monitored.  Effective governance of forest resources is also based on frequent stakeholder interaction, which aids in building trust among them (Singh & Pandey 2010).

Effective resource governance is also based on formulating rules, monitoring and enforcement by local communities (Singh & Pandey 2010).  A Joint Forest Management initiative in the Deulgaon community, Maharashtra State, India, involved management norms formed by the locals, which led to improved monitoring.  Norms like resource extraction limits and prohibition were complied with, as the governance was based on strict monetary sanctions and the penalties were decided by the executive committee (Ghate& Nagendra 2005).


The Western Ghats-Sri Lanka Hotspot is the most densely populated biodiversity hotspot (Cincotta et al. 2000) in the world with the presence of numerous forest-dwelling communities, and, Community Reserves and Conservation Reserves provide opportunities to promote effective conservation by including local communities in PA management rather than excluding them.  This may avoid exhausting scarce financial resources through expensive resettlement programmes and the creation of conservation refugees in the process, and could help rectify the negative effects that PAs have had on local communities (Mulongoy & Chape 2004).  The multi-stakeholder component of reserve management needs to be monitored, interactions between stakeholders maintained and their livelihoods supported in accordance with the management plans.  The most critical challenge remains financial sustainability, which must be ensured for such reserves to be functional.


Aarif, K.M., P.K. Prasadan & S. Babu (2011). Conservation significance of the Kadalundi-Vallikkunnu community reserve.Current Science 101(6): 717–718.

Agrawal, A. & C. Gibson (1999). Enchantment and disenchantment: the role of community in natural resource conservation. World Development 27(4): 629–649.

Agrawal, A. & J.C. Ribot(1999). Accountability in decentralization: a framework with South Asian and West African cases. Journal of Developing Areas 33: 473–502.

Brockington, D., J. Igoe & K. Scnhmidt-Soltau (2006).Conservation, human rights, and poverty reduction.Conservation Biology 20: 250–252;

Chitharanjan (2011). Kadalundi reserve all set to lure nature lovers. The Times of India. (accessed 15 February 2013).

Cincotta, R.P., J. Wisnewski & R. Engelman(2000). Human population in the biodiversity hotspots.Nature404: 990–992.

Dandekar, P. (2011).Novel Conservation reserves on Kali, Bedthi and Aghanashini in the Western Ghats.South Asian Network on Dams, Rivers and People, Delhi.,%20Bedthi%20and%20Aghanashini%20in%20the%20Western%20Ghats (accessed 9th January 2013).

DFWP, Punjab (Department of Forests & Wildlife Preservation, Punjab) (2010). Wildlife Protected Areas. DFWP, Punjab. Available from (accessed 17 February 2013).

Ghate, R. & H. Nagendra (2005). Role of monitoring in institutional performance: forest management in Maharashtra, India. Conservation and Society 3(2): 509–532.

Kanagavel, A., S. Joseph, R. Pandya & R. Raghavan (2013). Potential for Community and Conservation Reserves in the Western Ghats, India.Asian Journal of Conservation Biology 2(1): 61–68.

Karanth, K.K. & R. DeFries (2011). Nature-based tourism in Indian protected areas: New challenges in park management. Conservation Letters 4(2): 137-149;

Kumara, H.N. (2011). Declaration of “Aghanashini Lion-tailed Macaque Conservation Reserve”.Zoo’s Print 26(7): 5.

Kumara, H.N., V.M. Raj & K. Santhosh (2008).Assessment of important wildlife habitat in Sirsi-HonnavaraFoert Divisions.Karnataka: with special emphasis on estimation of Lion-tailed Macaque (Macacasilenus) population. Technical Report 1, Submitted to Karnataka Forest Department, Sirsi.

Lasgorceix, A. & A. Kothari (2009). Displacement and Relocation of Protected Areas:A Synthesis and Analysis of Case Studies. Economic & Political Weekly xliv: 38–47.

Lockwood, M., G. Worboys& A. Kothari (2006). Managing Protected Areas: A Global Guide. USA & UK: Earthscan Publishing.

Madhusudan, M.D. & T.R.S. Raman (2003). Conservation as if Biological Diversity Matters: Preservation versus Sustainable Use in India. Conservation and Society 1: 49-59.

McNeely, J.A. (1994). Protected areas for the 21st century: working to provide benefits to society. Biodiversity and Conservation 3(5): 390–405;

MoEF (Ministry of Environment and Forests, Government of India) (2010a).The Wildlife Amendment (Protection) Act 2006.MoEF, New Delhi. Available from (accessed 18 February 2013).

MoEF (2010b).State/Union Territory Minor Forest Produce (Ownership of Forest Dependent Community) Act, 2005.MoEF, New Delhi. Available from (accessed 18 February 2013).

MoEF (2010c).The Wildlife Amendment (Protection) Act 2002.MoEF, New Delhi. Available from (accessed 18 February 2013).

Mulongoy, K.J. & S. Chape(2004).Protected areas and biodiversity. An Overview of Key Issues. CBD Secretariat and UNEP-WCMC, Montreal, Canada and Cambridge, UK, 52pp.

Nair, R.M. (2007).Kadalundi-Vallikunnu community reserve rich in flora, fauna. (accessed 9 January 2013).

Pathak, N., T. Balasinorwala, A. Kothari & B.R. Bushley (2006). People in Conservation, Community Conserved Areas in India. Kalpavriksh, Pune, India, 12pp.

Protected Area Update (2008).Conflict between panchayats over management of Kadalundi Community Reserve.Protected Area Update 76: 10.

Rajan, A. & E. Abraham (2007).Coir fiber-process and opportunities.Journal of Natural Fibers 3(4): 29–41.

Remani, K.N., E. Nirmala & S.R. Nair (1989).Pollution due to coir retting and its effect on estuarine flora and fauna.International Journal of Environmental Studies 32(4): 285–295;

Ribot, J.C. (2004).Waiting for Democracy: The Politics of Choice in Natural Resource Decentralization. World Resources Institute, Washington DC, 140pp.

Singh, V.S. & D.N. Pandey(2010).What Makes Joint Forest Management Successful? Science-Based Policy Lessons on Sustainable Governance of Forests in India. RSPCB Occasional Paper No. 3/2010, Jaipur: RajastanState Pollution Control Board, 40pp.

TFD (TamilNaduForest Department) (2007).Tiruppadaimarathur Conservation Reserve. TFD, tamilNadu. Available from (accessed 9 January 2013).

The Hindu (2005). Conservation reserve planned in Tirunelvelivillage. (accessed 9 January 2013).

The Hindu (2007).Estuary Declared Community Reserve.The Hindu 9 January 2013).

The Hindu (2009a).Panel’s assurance to people on project. print (accessed 9 January 2013).

The Hindu (2009b).Kadalundi representative chosen to head panel. (accessed 9 January 2013).

The Hindu (2009c).Central Funds for community reserve. (accessed 9 January 2013).

The Times of India (2010). Wildlife board Okays community conservation reserves.

This article is about the Indian state of Kerala. For the genus of moth, see Kerala (moth). For the incident in Afghanistan, see Kerala massacre.


A houseboat in the Kerala backwaters

Nickname(s): God's Own Country, Spice Garden of India, Land of Coconuts

Location of Kerala
Coordinates (Thiruvananthapuram): 8°30′N77°00′E / 8.5°N 77°E / 8.5; 77Coordinates: 8°30′N77°00′E / 8.5°N 77°E / 8.5; 77
Country India
Statehood1 November 1956
 • BodyGovernment of Kerala
 • GovernorP. Sathasivam[1]
 • Chief MinisterPinarayi Vijayan (CPI (M))
 • Chief SecretaryPaul Antony IAS[2]
 • Director General of PoliceLokanath BeheraIPS
 • LegislatureUnicameral (141 seats)
 • Total38,863 km2 (15,005 sq mi)
Area rank22nd
Highest elevation2,695 m (8,842 ft)
Lowest elevation−2.2 m (−7.2 ft)
Population (2011)[3]
 • Total33,387,677
 • Rank13th
 • Density860/km2 (2,200/sq mi)
Demonym(s)Keralite, Malayali
Time zoneIST (UTC+05:30)
ISO 3166 codeIN-KL
HDI 0.712 (High)[4]
HDI rank1st (2015)
Literacy93.9% (1st) (2011)
Official languageMalayalam[5]
140 elected, 1 nominated

Kerala (), called Keralam in Malayalam (where Kerala is the adjectival form), is a state in South India on the Malabar Coast. It was formed on 1 November 1956 following the States Reorganisation Act by combining Malayalam-speaking regions. Spread over 38,863 km2 (15,005 sq mi), it is bordered by Karnataka to the north and northeast, Tamil Nadu to the east and south, and the Lakshadweep Sea to the west. With 33,387,677 inhabitants as per the 2011 Census, Kerala is the thirteenth-largest Indian state by population. It is divided into 14 districts with the capital being Thiruvananthapuram. Thiruvananthapuram is the largest city in the state. Malayalam is the most widely spoken language and is also the official language of the state.

The Chera Dynasty was the first prominent kingdom based in Kerala. The Ay kingdom in the deep south and the Ezhimala kingdom in the north formed the other kingdoms in the early years of the Common Era (CE or AD). The region had been a prominent spice exporter since 3000 BCE. The region's prominence in trade was noted in the works of Pliny as well as the Periplus around 100 CE. In the 15th century, the spice trade attracted Portuguese traders to Kerala, and paved the way for European colonisation of India. At the time of Indian independence movement in the early 20th century, there were two major princely states in Kerala-Travancore State and the Kingdom of Cochin. They united to form the state of Thiru-Kochi in 1949. The Malabar region, in the northern part of Kerala had been a part of the Madras province of British India, which later became a part of the Madras State post-independence. After the States Reorganisation Act, 1956, the modern-day state of Kerala was formed by merging the Malabar district of Madras State (excluding Gudalur taluk of Nilgiris district, Topslip, the Attappadi Forest east of Anakatti), the state of Thiru-Kochi (excluding four southern taluks of Kanyakumari district, Shenkottai and Tenkasi taluks), and the taluks of Kasaragod (now Kasaragod District) and South Kanara (Tulunad) which were a part of Madras State.

Kerala has the lowest positive population growth rate in India, 3.44%; the highest Human Development Index (HDI), 0.712 in 2015; the highest literacy rate, 93.91% in the 2011 census; the highest life expectancy, 77 years; and the highest sex ratio, 1,084 women per 1,000 men. The state has witnessed significant emigration, especially to Arab states of the Persian Gulf during the Gulf Boom of the 1970s and early 1980s, and its economy depends significantly on remittances from a large Malayali expatriate community. Hinduism is practised by more than half of the population, followed by Islam and Christianity. The culture is a synthesis of Aryan, Dravidian, Arab, European cultures,[6] developed over millennia, under influences from other parts of India and abroad.

The production of pepper and natural rubber contributes significantly to the total national output. In the agricultural sector, coconut, tea, coffee, cashew and spices are important. The state's coastline extends for 595 kilometres (370 mi), and around 1.1 million people in the state are dependent on the fishery industry which contributes 3% to the state's income. The state has the highest media exposure in India with newspapers publishing in nine languages, mainly English and Malayalam. Kerala is one of the prominent tourist destinations of India, with backwaters, beaches, Ayurvedic tourism and tropical greenery as its major attractions.


The name Kerala has an uncertain etymology. One popular theory derives Kerala from Kera ("coconut tree" in Malayalam) and alam ("land"); thus "land of coconuts",[7] which is a nickname for the state, used by locals, due to abundance of coconut trees.[8] The word Kerala is first recorded as Keralaputra in a 3rd-century BCE rock inscription left by the Maurya emperorAshoka (274–237 BCE), one of his edicts pertaining to welfare.[9] The inscription refers to the local ruler as Keralaputra (Sanskrit for "son of Kerala"); or "son of Chera[s]". This contradicts the theory that Kera is from "coconut tree".[10] At that time, one of three states in the region was called Cheralam in Classical Tamil: Chera and Kera are variants of the same word.[11] The word Cheral refers to the oldest known dynasty of Kerala kings and is derived from the Proto-Tamil-Malayalam word for "lake".[12]

The earliest Sanskrit text to mention Kerala is the Aitareya Aranyaka of the Rigveda. Kerala is also mentioned in the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, the two Hindu epics.[13] The Skanda Purana mentions the ecclesiastical office of the Thachudaya Kaimal who is referred to as Manikkam Keralar, synonymous with the deity of the Koodalmanikyam temple.[14][15]Keralam may stem from the Classical Tamilcherive-alam ("declivity of a hill or a mountain slope")[16] or chera alam ("Land of the Cheras"). The Greco-Roman trade map Periplus Maris Erythraei refers to Keralaputra as Celobotra.[17]


Main article: History of Kerala


According to Hindu mythology, the lands of Kerala were recovered from the sea by the axe-wielding warrior sage Parasurama, the sixth avatar of Vishnu (hence, Kerala is also called Parasurama Kshetram ("The Land of Parasurama")[18]). Parasurama threw his axe across the sea, and the water receded as far as it reached. According to legend, this new area of land extended from Gokarna to Kanyakumari.[19] The land which rose from sea was filled with salt and unsuitable for habitation; so Parasurama invoked the Snake King Vasuki, who spat holy poison and converted the soil into fertile lush green land. Out of respect, Vasuki and all snakes were appointed as protectors and guardians of the land. The legend was later expanded, and found literary expression in the 17th or 18th century with Keralolpathi, which traces the origin of aspects of early Kerala society, such as land tenure and administration, to the story of Parasurama.[20] In medieval times Kuttuvan may have emulated the Parasurama tradition by throwing his spear into the sea to symbolise his lordship over it.[21]

Another much earlier Puranic character associated with Kerala is Mahabali, an Asura and a prototypical just king, who ruled the earth from Kerala. He won the war against the Devas, driving them into exile. The Devas pleaded before Lord Vishnu, who took his fifth incarnation as Vamana and pushed Mahabali down to Patala (the netherworld) to placate the Devas. There is a belief that, once a year during the Onam festival, Mahabali returns to Kerala.[22] The Matsya Purana, among the oldest of the 18 Puranas,[23][24] uses the Malaya Mountains of Kerala (and Tamil Nadu) as the setting for the story of Matsya, the first incarnation of Vishnu, and Manu, the first man and the king of the region.[25][26]


Main article: Pre-history of Kerala

A substantial portion of Kerala may have been under the sea in ancient times. Marine fossils have been found in an area near Changanacherry, thus supporting the hypothesis.[27] Pre-historical archaeological findings include dolmens of the Neolithic era in the Marayur area of the Idukki district. They are locally known as "muniyara", derived from muni (hermit or sage) and ara (dolmen).[28] Rock engravings in the Edakkal Caves, in Wayanad date back to the Neolithic era around 6000 BCE.[29][30] Archaeological studies have identified Mesolithic, Neolithic and Megalithic sites in Kerala.[31] The studies point to the development of ancient Kerala society and its culture beginning from the Paleolithic Age, through the Mesolithic, Neolithic and Megalithic Ages.[32] Foreign cultural contacts have assisted this cultural formation;[33] historians suggest a possible relationship with Indus Valley Civilization during the late Bronze Age and early Iron Age.[34]

Ancient period[edit]

Kerala has been a major spice exporter since 3000 BCE, according to Sumerian records and it is still referred to as the "Garden of Spices" or as the "Spice Garden of India".[35][36] Kerala's spices attracted ancient Babylonians, Assyrians and Egyptians to the Malabar Coast in the 3rd and 2nd millennia BCE. Phoenicians established trade with Kerala during this period.[37] The Land of Keralaputra was one of the four independent kingdoms in southern India during Ashoka's time, the others being Chola, Pandya, and Satiyaputra.[38] Scholars hold that Keralaputra is an alternate name of the Cheras, the first dominant dynasty based in Kerala.[39][40] These territories once shared a common language and culture, within an area known as Tamilakam.[41] Along with the Ay kingdom in the south and the Ezhimala kingdom in the north, the Cheras formed the ruling kingdoms of Kerala in the early years of the Common Era (CE). It is noted in Sangam literature that the Chera king Uthiyan Cheralathan ruled most of modern Kerala from his capital in Kuttanad,[44] and controlled the port of Muziris, but its southern tip was in the kingdom of Pandyas,[45] which had a trading port sometimes identified in ancient Western sources as Nelcynda (or Neacyndi) in Quilon.[46] The lesser known Ays and Mushikas kingdoms lay to the south and north of the Chera regions respectively.[47][48]

In the last centuries BCE the coast became important to the Greeks and Romans for its spices, especially black pepper. The Cheras had trading links with China, West Asia, Egypt, Greece, and the Roman Empire.[49] In foreign-trade circles the region was known as Male or Malabar.[50]Muziris, Berkarai, and Nelcynda were among the principal ports at that time.[51] The value of Rome's annual trade with the region was estimated at around 50,000,000 sesterces;[52] contemporary Sangam literature describes Roman ships coming to Muziris in Kerala, laden with gold to exchange for pepper. One of the earliest western traders to use the monsoon winds to reach Kerala was Eudoxus of Cyzicus, around 118 or 166 BCE, under the patronage of Ptolemy VIII, king of the HellenisticPtolemaic dynasty in Egypt. Roman establishments in the port cities of the region, such as a temple of Augustus and barracks for garrisoned Roman soldiers, are marked in the Tabula Peutingeriana; the only surviving map of the Roman cursus publicus.[53][54]

Merchants from West Asia and Southern Europe established coastal posts and settlements in Kerala.[55] The Israeli (Jewish) connection with Kerala started in 573 BCE.[56][57][58] Arabs also had trade links with Kerala, starting before the 4th century BCE, as Herodotus (484–413 BCE) noted that goods brought by Arabs from Kerala were sold to the Israelis [Hebrew (Jews)] at Eden.[51] Israelis intermarried with local (Cheras Dravidian) people, resulting in formation of the Mappila community.[59] In the 4th century, some Christians also migrated from Persia and joined the early Syrian Christian community who trace their origins to the evangelistic activity of Thomas the Apostle in the 1st century.[60][61]Mappila (Semitic) was an honorific title that had been assigned to respected visitors from abroad; Israelite(Jewish), Syrian (Aramaic) Christian, and Muslim immigration account for later names of the respective communities: Juda Mappilas, Nasrani Mappilas, and Muslim Mappilas.[62][63] The earliest Saint Thomas Christian Churches,[64]Cheraman Juma Masjid (629 CE)—the first mosque of India[65]—and Paradesi Synagogue (1568 CE)—the oldest active synagogue in the Commonwealth of Nations[66]—were built in Kerala.[59]

Early medieval period[edit]

A second Chera Kingdom (c. 800–1102), also known as Kulasekhara dynasty of Mahodayapuram (present-day Kodungallur), was established by Kulasekhara Varman, which ruled over a territory comprising the whole of modern Kerala and a smaller part of modern Tamil Nadu. During the early part of the Kulasekara period, the southern region from Nagerkovil to Thiruvalla was ruled by Ay kings, who lost their power in the 10th century, making the region a part of the Kulasekara empire.[67][68] Under Kulasekhara rule, Kerala witnessed a developing period of art, literature, trade and the Bhakti movement of Hinduism.[69] A Keralite identity, distinct from the Tamils, became linguistically separate during this period around the seventh century.[70] For local administration, the empire was divided into provinces under the rule of Naduvazhis, with each province comprising a number of Desams under the control of chieftains, called as Desavazhis.[69]

The inhibitions, caused by a series of Chera-Chola wars in the 11th century, resulted in the decline of foreign trade in Kerala ports. In addition, Portuguese invasions in the 15th century caused two major religion Buddhism and Jainism to disappear from the land. It is known that the Menons in the Malabar region of Kerala were originally strong believers of Jainism. [71] The social system became fractured with divisions on caste lines.[72] Finally, the Kulasekhara dynasty was subjugated in 1102 by the combined attack of Later Pandyas and Later Cholas.[67] However, in the 14th century, Ravi Varma Kulashekhara (1299–1314) of the southern Venad kingdom was able to establish a short-lived supremacy over southern India. After his death, in the absence of a strong central power, the state was divided into thirty small warring principalities; the most powerful of them were the kingdom of Samuthiri in the north, Venad in the south and Kochi in the middle. In the 18th Century, Travancore King Sree Anizham Thirunal Marthanda Varma annexed all the kingdoms up to Northern Kerala through military conquests, resulting in the rise of Travancore to pre-eminence in Kerala. The Kochi ruler sued for peace with Anizham Thirunal and Malabar came under direct British rule until India became independent.[73][74]

Colonial era[edit]

The maritime spice trade monopoly in the Indian Ocean (Indu Maha Samundr) stayed with the Arabs during the High and Late Middle Ages. However, the dominance of Middle East traders was challenged in the European Age of Discovery. After Vasco Da Gama's arrival in KappadKozhikode in 1498, the Portuguese began to dominate eastern shipping, and the spice-trade in particular.[75][76][77] The Zamorin of Kozhikode permitted the new visitors to trade with his subjects such that Portuguese trade in Kozhikode prospered with the establishment of a factory and a fort. However, Portuguese attacks on Arab properties in his jurisdiction provoked the Zamorin and led to conflicts between them. The Portuguese took advantage of the rivalry between the Zamorin and the King of Kochi allied with Kochi. When Francisco de Almeida was appointed as Viceroy of Portuguese India in 1505, his headquarters was established at Fort Kochi (Fort Emmanuel) rather than in Kozhikode. During his reign, the Portuguese managed to dominate relations with Kochi and established a few fortresses on the Malabar Coast.[78] However, the Portuguese suffered setbacks from attacks by Zamorin forces; especially from naval attacks under the leadership Kozhikode admirals known as Kunjali Marakkars, which compelled them to seek a treaty. In 1571, the Portuguese were defeated by the Zamorin forces in the battle at Chaliyam fort.[79]

The Portuguese were ousted by the Dutch East India Company, who during the conflicts between the Kozhikode and the Kochi, gained control of the trade.[80] The Dutch in turn were weakened by constant battles with Marthanda Varma of the Travancore Royal Family, and were defeated at the Battle of Colachel in 1741.[81] An agreement, known as "Treaty of Mavelikkara", was signed by the Dutch and Travancore in 1753, according to which the Dutch were compelled to detach from all political involvement in the region.[82][83][84] Marthanda Varma annexed northern kingdoms through military conquests, resulting in the rise of Travancore to a position of preeminence in Kerala.[85]

In 1766, Hyder Ali, the ruler of Mysoreinvaded northern Kerala.[86] His son and successor, Tipu Sultan, launched campaigns against the expanding British East India Company, resulting in two of the four Anglo-Mysore Wars.[87][88] Tipu ultimately ceded the Malabar District and South Kanara to the company in the 1790s; both were annexed to the Madras Presidency of British India in 1792.[89][90][91] The company forged tributary alliances with Kochi in 1791 and Travancore in 1795.[92] By the end of 18th century, the whole of Kerala fell under the control of the British, either administered directly or under suzerainty.[93] There were major revolts in Kerala during the independence movement in the 20th century; most notable among them is the 1921 Malabar Rebellion and the social struggles in Travancore. In the Malabar Rebellion, Mappila Muslims of Malabar rioted against Hindu zamindars and the British Raj.[94] Some social struggles against caste inequalities also erupted in the early decades of 20th century, leading to the 1936 Temple Entry Proclamation that opened Hindu temples in Travancore to all castes.[95]

Post-colonial period[edit]

After India was partitioned in 1947 into India and Pakistan, Travancore and Kochi, part of the Union of India were merged on 1 July 1949 to form Travancore-Cochin.[96] On 1 November 1956, the taluk of Kasargod in the South Kanara district of Madras, the Malabar district of Madras, and Travancore-Cochin, without four southern taluks (which joined Tamil Nadu), merged to form the state of Kerala under the States Reorganisation Act.[97][98] A Communist-led government under E. M. S. Namboodiripad resulted from the first elections for the new Kerala Legislative Assembly in 1957.[98] It was one of the earliest elected Communist governments, after Communist success in the 1945 elections in the Republic of San Marino.[99][100][101] His government helped distribute land and implement educational reforms.[102]


Main article: Geography of Kerala

The state is wedged between the Lakshadweep Sea and the Western Ghats. Lying between northern latitudes 8°18' and 12°48' and eastern longitudes 74°52' and 77°22',[103] Kerala experiences the humid equatorial tropic climate. The state has a coast of 590 km (370 mi)[104] and the width of the state varies between 11 and 121 kilometres (7 and 75 mi).[105] Geographically, Kerala can be divided into three climatically distinct regions: the eastern highlands; rugged and cool mountainous terrain, the central mid-lands; rolling hills, and the western lowlands; coastal plains.[106]Pre-Cambrian and Pleistocene geological formations compose the bulk of Kerala's terrain.[107][108] A catastrophic flood in Kerala in 1341 CE drastically modified its terrain and consequently affected its history; it also created a natural harbour for spice transport.[109] The eastern region of Kerala consists of high mountains, gorges and deep-cut valleys immediately west of the Western Ghats' rain shadow.[106] 41 of Kerala's west-flowing rivers,[110] and 3 of its east-flowing ones originate in this region.[111][112] The Western Ghats form a wall of mountains interrupted only near Palakkad; hence also known Palghat, where the Palakkad Gap breaks.[113] The Western Ghats rise on average to 1,500 metres (4,900 feet) above sea level,[114] while the highest peaks reach around 2,500 metres (8,200 feet).[115]Anamudi in the Idukki district is the highest peak in south India, is at an elevation of 2,695 m (8,842 ft).[116]

Kerala's western coastal belt is relatively flat compared to the eastern region,[117] and is criss-crossed by a network of interconnected brackish canals, lakes, estuaries,[118] and rivers known as the Kerala Backwaters.[119] The state's largest lake Vembanad, dominates the backwaters; it lies between Alappuzha and Kochi and is about 200 km2 (77 sq mi) in area.[120] Around eight percent of India's waterways are found in Kerala.[121] Kerala's 44 rivers include the Periyar; 244 kilometres (152 mi), Bharathapuzha; 209 kilometres (130 mi), Pamba; 176 kilometres (109 mi), Chaliyar; 169 kilometres (105 mi), Kadalundipuzha; 130 kilometres (81 mi), Chalakudipuzha; 130 kilometres (81 mi), Valapattanam; 129 kilometres (80 mi) and the Achankovil River; 128 kilometres (80 mi). The average length of the rivers is 64 kilometres (40 mi). Many of the rivers are small and entirely fed by monsoon rain.[122] As Kerala's rivers are small and lacking in delta, they are more prone to environmental effects. The rivers face problems such as sand mining and pollution.[123] The state experiences several natural hazards like landslides, floods and droughts. The state was also affected by the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami.[124]


With around 120–140 rainy days per year,[125]:80 Kerala has a wet and maritime tropical climate influenced by the seasonal heavy rains of the southwest summer monsoon and northeast winter monsoon.[126] Around 65% of the rainfall occurs from June to August corresponding to the Southwest monsoon, and the rest from September to December corresponding to Northeast monsoon.[126] The moisture-laden winds of the Southwest monsoon, on reaching the southernmost point of the Indian Peninsula, because of its topography, divides into two branches; the "Arabian Sea Branch" and the "Bay of Bengal Branch".[127] The "Arabian Sea Branch" of the Southwest monsoon first hits the Western Ghats,[128] making Kerala the first state in India to receive rain from the Southwest monsoon.[129][130] The distribution of pressure patterns is reversed in the Northeast monsoon, during this season the cold winds from North India pick up moisture from the Bay of Bengal and precipitate it on the east coast of peninsular India.[131][132] In Kerala, the influence of the Northeast monsoon is seen in southern districts only.[133] Kerala's rainfall averages 2,923 mm (115 in) annually.[134] Some of Kerala's drier lowland regions average only 1,250 mm (49 in); the mountains of the eastern Idukki district receive more than 5,000 mm (197 in) of orographic precipitation: the highest in the state. In eastern Kerala, a drier tropical wet and dry climate prevails. During the summer, the state is prone to gale-force winds, storm surges, cyclone-related torrential downpours, occasional droughts, and rises in sea level.[135]:26, 46, 52 The mean daily temperature ranges from 19.8 °C to 36.7 °C.[136] Mean annual temperatures range from 25.0–27.5 °C in the coastal lowlands to 20.0–22.5 °C in the eastern highlands.[135]:65

Climate data for Kerala
Average high °C (°F)30
Average low °C (°F)22
Average rainfall mm (inches)8.7
Source: [134][136]

Flora and fauna[edit]

Main article: Flora and fauna of Kerala

Most of the biodiversity is concentrated and protected in the Western Ghats. Three quarters of the land area of Kerala was under thick forest up to 18th century.[139] As of 2004[update], over 25% of India's 15,000 plant species are in Kerala. Out of the 4,000 flowering plant species; 1,272 of which are endemic to Kerala, 900 are medicinal, and 159 are threatened.[140]:11 Its 9,400 km2 of forests include tropical wet evergreen and semi-evergreen forests (lower and middle elevations—3,470 km2), tropical moist and dry deciduous forests (mid-elevations—4,100 km2 and 100 km2, respectively), and montane subtropical and temperate (shola) forests (highest elevations—100 km2). Altogether, 24% of Kerala is forested.[140]:12 Three of the world's Ramsar Convention listed wetlands—Lake Sasthamkotta, Ashtamudi Lake and the Vembanad-Kol wetlands—are in Kerala, as well as 1455.4 km2 of the vast Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve. Subjected to extensive clearing for cultivation in the 20th century,[141]:6–7 much of the remaining forest cover is now protected from clearfelling.[142] Eastern Kerala's windward mountains shelter tropical moist forests and tropical dry forests, which are common in the Western Ghats.[143][144] The world's oldest teak plantation 'Conolly's Plot' is in Nilambur.[145]

Kerala's fauna are notable for their diversity and high rates of endemism: it includes 118 species of mammals (1 endemic), 500 species of birds, 189 species of freshwater fish, 173 species of reptiles (10 of them endemic), and 151 species of amphibians (36 endemic).[146] These are threatened by extensive habitat destruction, including soil erosion, landslides, salinisation, and resource extraction. In the forests, sonokeling, Dalbergia latifolia, anjili, mullumurikku, Erythrina, and Cassia number among the more than 1,000 species of trees in Kerala. Other plants include bamboo, wild black pepper, wild cardamom, the calamusrattan palm, and aromatic vetiver grass, Vetiveria zizanioides.[140]:12Indian elephant, Bengal tiger, Indian leopard, Nilgiri tahr, common palm civet, and grizzled giant squirrels are also found in the forests.[140]:12, 174–175 Reptiles include the king cobra, viper, python, and mugger crocodile. Kerala's birds include the Malabar trogon, the great hornbill, Kerala laughingthrush, darter and southern hill myna. In the lakes, wetlands, and waterways, fish such as kadu; stinging catfish and choottachi; orange chromide—Etroplus maculatus are found.[140]:163–165

Parasurama, surrounded by settlers, commanding Varuna (the Hindu God of water) to part the seas and reveal Kerala
Silk Road map. The spice trade was mainly along the water routes (blue).

Anamudi, on the right, as seen from the Munnar-Udumalpettai highway


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