In a quiet north-western corner of Karnataka lies the little-known town of Joida. Joida is not just the largest taluk (administrative district) in Karnataka, but also boasts another unique surprise. It is the taluk with the highest forest cover in the state – almost 80% of its area is covered in thick jungles!
This region is home to one of the most celebrated and revered rivers of the state: Kali. Kali flows through breathtaking landscapes, before joining the Arabian Sea after a journey of nearly 200 kms. The landscape Kali cuts through is a mosaic of peculiar geology. And for the most part, she cuts through dark, volcanic rocks, making the water appear black; hence the name Kali (black river). Like most rivers in India, Kali too is born in the mountains: a little mountain stream in the heart of the Western Ghats is her birth-place. As Kali flows, she nourishes the land with life.
It’s not just the people who depend on her, but also the flora and fauna of the region. The Kali Tiger Reserve – through which the river runs – spreads over an area of 815 sq. kms, and is one of the top biodiversity hot-spots in the world. The tiger reserve is a remarkable habitat: a mosaic of dry-deciduous jungles, evergreen forests and high altitude grasslands.
The reserve is one of the world’s most bio-diverse evergreen jungles, and the sheer colours and brilliance of the species found here are unmatched. Green Vine Snake, Blue-eyed Bush Frog, Large-eyed Bronzeback and Malabar Pit Viper are some of the gorgeous species of reptiles found here.
The reserve is also home to some rare and beautiful birds like the Malabar Pied Hornbill, Asian Fairy-bluebird, Malabar Whistling Thrush, Blue-capped Rock Thrush and Eurasian Martin.
Kali sustains not just people, but also some of the world’s most fragile creatures and ecosystems. Like all rivers facing the pressures of pollution and population, this river too needs care and reverence.