Athirappilly Falls is situated in Athirappilly panchayath, Chalakudy Taluk in of Thrissur district, Kerala on the southwest coast of India. Located on the west-flowing Chalakudy River near the Vazhachal Forest Division and the Sholayar ranges, this 24-metre (80 ft) waterfall and the nearby Vazhachal Falls are popular tourist destinations. There is another waterfall on the way from Athirappilly to Vazhachal Falls, in close proximity to the road and is locally called “Charpa Falls”. Athirappilly Falls is the largest waterfall in Kerala and is nicknamed “The Niagara of India”. Controversy about a state-proposed hydroelectric dam on the Chalakudy River above the waterfalls began in the 1990s and has continued through 2011.
Forest wildlife in the area includes the Asiatic elephant, tiger, leopard, bison, sambar, and lion-tailed macaque. The unique 180 metres (590 ft) elevation riparian forest in the Athirappilly-Vazhachal area is the only location where all four South Indian species of hornbills — the great hornbill (the state bird of Kerala), Malabar pied hornbill, Malabar grey hornbill, and the Indian grey hornbill are found living together. If the proposed 163-MW Athirappilly hydroelectric project is built, these unique birds may vanish from these forests because it will submerge the hornbills’ habitat.
Plantations in the area contain teak, bamboo, and eucalyptus. Environmentalists claim that Athirappilly is a one-of its-kind riparian ecosystem in Kerala. V.S. Vijayan, Chairman of the Kerala State Biodiversity Board and former Director of the Salim Ali Centre for Ornithology and Natural History (SACON), Coimbatore, has been quoted in Down to Earth magazine as affirming that the Vazhachal forest division is the second most biodiverse area in the State. The International Bird Association has declared it an ‘Important Bird Area’ and the Asian Nature Conservation Foundation has recommended that the area should be declared a sanctuary or a national park, he points out. The Wildlife Trust of India says it represents one of India’s best elephant conservation efforts. “Any disruption to this fragile ecosystem will spell disaster,” says Vijayan. The river provides habitat for 85 species of fresh water fishes. Among these, 35 are endemic species. This place is the best place to find most animals in the wild.
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