The modern history of the district starts with the advent of European planters to this region. In 1877 Kerala Varma, the Raja of Poonjar, sold 227 sq. miles of Kannan Devan Hills to John Daniel Munroe, a British planter. This has led to the birth of Kannan Devan Hill Produce Company. Kannan Thevan is an Adivasi who showed the hills to the Planters and today Kannan Devan Hills is internationally known. The tract was largely unexplored and covered with thick forests. There were no means of communications. In 1878 the Maharaja of Travancore confirmed the sale. J.D Munroe formed the North Travancore Land Planting and Agricultural Society. The members of the society developed their own estates in various parts of the High Ranges. The first cultivation was undertaken by A.W Turnor at Devikulam area in 1877.

The pioneers tried many cropes such as Coffee, Chinchona, Sisal and Cardamom, before discovering tea as the crop best suited for this area. Tea was first planted by A.H Sharp at Parvathi, now in Seven Mallay Estate by clearing 50 acres on a dense forest. In 1895 that area was purchased by Finlay Muir & Company now known as James Finlay and Company Limited. The Kannan Devan Hills Produce Company Limited and the Anglo-American Direct Tea Trading Company Ltd., owned 28 estates in these areas. The remaining 7 estates were owned by other British and Indian Companies not belonging to this group.

Kannan Devan Plantations

With the entry of large business houses possessing capital and technical skill, the pace of development was accelerated. Experienced tea planters were brought from Ceylon and large areas were planted with tea. Roads were opened, transport organised, houses and factories built and production rose rapidly in the succeeding years. Later M/s Tata Finlay Ltd., a company incorporated in India, purchased the Tea Estates from them and are running them now, under the name M/s Tata Finlay Ltd. Their operation are mainly confined to Munnar - Devikulam area.

After the implementation of the Land Reforms Act, about 70,000 acres of Kannan Devan Hills Village were resumed from the Company as excess land with out any compensation. It is also a bare fact which should not be forgotten that the deforestation process started in the High Ranges with the advent of Plantation industry by the end of 19th century, the ever green forests existed were totally destroyed in the area and substituted with the present greenish carpet of tea leaves.




The District is characterised by large migration of people from Kerala's main land as also labourers from neighbouring state of Tamil Nadu. About 3 decades ago almost all the present growth centres in the highland region were thick forest. During 1890-1920 on account of plantation, people came to this place to work in plantation, while during 1920-30 the migration was on account of the poverty, due to after effect of World Wars. 1933-47 saw migration on a smaller extent for the reason of Pallivasal Project. The Pallivassal Hydro-electric Project, the first Hydro-electic Project of the State was initially constructed by the Tea Companies for their industrial use. During 1946 Government allotted forest land for 2000 persons while in 1950 Colonies were established for Ex-servicemen. In 1951 under grow more Scheme 1500 acres of land was allotted to 1000 persons, which made more and more people migrate to this District. During 1960 and 70's many migrated on account of the construction of the Historic Arch Dam at Idukki. From 1901 to 1971 the population of the district has increased about 16 times and is on a higher scale compared to the rate of growth of population of the State.

Between 1971-81 the population of the district showed an increase of about 27 percent as against an increase of 19 percent for the state as a whole. Since most part of the district is covered with dense forests and plantations there is lesser area for habitation. There is also large scale conversion of forest areas into arable lands for past two decades. This has resulted in the increase in population in the hilly taluks of the district, especially in Udumbanchola and eastern parts of Thodupuzha taluk. The establishment of the gigantic Idukki Hydro-Electric Project in Thodupuzhs taluk also has influenced the growth of population in the district. The inability of the industrial sector in the district and neighbouring areas to absorb the labour force also acted as a catalyst for the large scale encroachment of forest areas.