Mount Esso & Dzuko Valley `“ A Biosphere Reserve


By RK Ranjan Singh


Dzuko valley and its surrounding hill ranges is a unique eco-system in the region. It is one of the rarest geographical gifts to this part of the Globe and more especially for the North Eastern India. The area has immense potentialities and hence the DZUKO region needs to be conserved as a zone of bio-diversities in this region. Harbouring rare species, it is potentially of great genetic importance.

DZUKO Valley is located in between 25032/3// N to 25033/47// N Latitude and 9403//43// E to 9404/28// E Longitudes. It has an area of about 2.5 Km2. (excluding the surrounding areas). It is located at an elevation of about 2450m. above mean sea level. It lies on the NW lap of the Esso Mountain (Iso), the highest peak of Manipur having an altitude of about 2995 m. above mean sea level.

The word DZUKO is derived from the Mao language i.e. DZU means water and KO means cold or frozen, hence literally called ‘frozen water’. The valley is the repository of rugged history of the Mao-Pokmai tribes of Manipur, their religious thought, cultural resilience and spiritual energy.      

In some of the Mao folk tales, the valley area was repeatedly explored in the distant past by the Mao tribes for their settlement. But because of severe cold climate and unsuccessful cultivation of crops, they had to abandon the attempt. However, the peak of the Khongho, the Esso and the DZUKO Valley had a tremendous impact on the psyche of the people here, who have touched these surrounding mountains and the DZUKO Valley with magic of their valour and love. They made the valley a natural, hollowed heritage of the people. All the time, following the changing seasonal rhythms, people, particularly youths, of Mao have been tempted for trekking the valley rapidly. This repeated exercise is the proving of their physical fitness and mixing of morals with the nature. DZUKO River is frozen during last part of Dec. and early part of Jan, youths enjoy walking over the frozen icy surface of the river. It is also strongly believed that if a person is immoral, his or her legs would be pulled down below the frozen surface of the river.


Geographically the topography of the valley is an interesting one. It provides many scopes for further research in the field of Geographical features, possibilities of glaciations in the recent past geological era, rock types, drainage and slope analysis etc. Geomorphologically, symptoms of allochthonous and autochthonous remnants were exposed in the midst of the valley portion of Manipur and along the foothills of Nagaland side. These isolated hillocks within the valley as well as the hill slopes on both sides of the valley show highly smoothened hummocky features. Further, it has also been observed that the valley seems to have a two-tier structure – a ‘V’ shaped valley followed by a ‘U’ – shaped valley. In spite of the limitations of carrying capacity of the stream two boulders of approximately 2m x 1.5m and 1.5 m x 1 m sizes are also found on the eastern side of the bank. This is unlikely to be carried down by the stream because it has only cobble size materials in its present base. These two boulders are presumed to be the lateral moraines deposited during the glaciations period.

Geologically the valley lies well within the Barail group of rocks of Tertiary succession. The Barail Range lies on the NNW side of this valley comprising Tenepu and Japvo peaks of Nagaland. The litho-character is of medium grain size sandstone having brownish gray colour. In some parts of the valley well cross-bedded sandstones are in the valley but have little or no intercalations of shale which is a general character of the Barails series. In some parts of the valley well cross-bedded sandstones are also found, each crossbred having thickness of about 20 to 40 cm. The valley itself develops along a N-S trending fault having a throw of about 25m. All the tributaries of the DZUKO River are also following either faults or joints transverse to this N-S trending fault. It may also be noted that the DZUKO valley develops on a fault plane instead of an antiformal structure.


It appears that the DZUKO valley region enjoys cold temperate climate during the winter season while heavy rainfall during monsoon and pleasant temperature during the summer. However, the region is yet to be measured in terms of the mean annual rainfall, temperature and humidity etc. It is presumed that the area has an average humidity of about 60% with a maximum of 85 to 90%. Snow falls during winter is common.


During the trip in between Mao IB to Khongho peak, it is observed that broad leaved trees, shrubs, herbs and different ephiphytes and climbers. The broad leaved trees are alcimandra catheartii, Schima wallichii, Rhododendron arbarium R.  elliottii, Fatsia sp. Etc. Among the shrubs, Lyonia ovalifalia, Osbeckia, Mussaenda etc. were recorded. Herbals like anemone, Calanthe and several other also grow luxuriantly. Coecologyne, Bulbophyllu, Dendrobium, Aeschynanthus are among the epiphytes. Glaeichenia, Leucostegia, Davallia, Asplenium, Polypodiu mm, Drymaria, Drymoglossium, Lycopodium and different specias of Selagimella are common under the pteridophytes (Ref. Late Dr. H. Brikramjit, 1991).

From distant hill ranges the valley appears to be fully carpeted by green spongy materials dotted with different colouring designs of seasonal flowers. During November to March, the valley floor looks grayish yellow predominated by the dart bamboo (Arundinaria). All the streams, tributaries and the main DZUKO River were frozen during most of the days in December and January. During June to July, the valley was fully bloomed with purple colour flower of DZUKO Lily (Lilium chitrangade – bikramjit). Many yellow flowers of Ranunculacease and Scrophulariceae, purple colour flower of Kaempferia (Zingiberacease), were also visible. During July to November, many varieties of white flowers and dwarf plants covering the whole of the valley and the surrounding foothills were observed.


Due to the rich flora of the valley and its surroundings and the lack of human accessibility, different species of birds and animals have found a Safer Home in DZUKO Valley. However, during our subsequent expeditions we happened to see some unidentified fowls and other birds, pairs of Cobra (medium size) and also some of ferocious wild cats etc. There are records and accounts of Elephants being regular visitors to DZUKO Valley (E.W. Dunn: 1873) However, in some of the documents, it is reported that the following mammals and birds were seen. They are namely Antelope Sp. (L), Himalayan Black Bear, Lesser Cats, Sambar Deer, Barking Deer, Wild Dog, Flying Fox, Hoolock Gibbon, Languor, etc. (S. Seth: 1991). Various insects and invertebrates other than insects inhabiting the valley were observed. Among them a number of exotic butterflies and earthworms may be mentioned. Among the birds, the Great Himalayan Barbet, Eagles, Green pigeon etc. were also observed (S. Seth: 1991). Among the amphibians, three rare species of high altitude frogs namely, Hyla anaetens, Rana verrucosa and Megophyrs monticola were seen (Dr. Kiesetto, 1991). The above mentioned faunal species are not meant to be exhaustive and there are numerous species of both flora and fauna that need to be identified.

Development and Dzuko Environs

The Nagaland Government has proposed many developmental projects as mentioned below:-

1. Paper mill using Tenwa (Arundinaria)

2. Hydel Project

3. Sheep farm

4. Mithun grazing field

5. Luxury tourism with 3 huts

6. Boating with the artificial flooding of the valley etc.

Currently the Nagaland government has concentrated its efforts for the implementation of the following plans viz., Water Supply Scheme to Kohima

Hydel Project and tourism

Accordingly, the government of Nagaland has constructed two different roads. They are namely, Jakhama DZUKO Road (7 kms.) and Viswema DZUKO Road (13 kms.). All these roads were constructed up to the length bracketed above, but these roads could not be extended further because of the lack of gradient crossing a huge bend of sandstone Hilly range. On the other hand, road construction has been banned by the Naga sensitive people and student organizations who are working for the protection of DZUKO environment and its Natural ecosystem. They further objected to all the proposals of the government (developmental plans) stated above.  We need continuous scientific environmental impact study in the area, a number of environmental problems can be foreseen if road construction and developmental projects are implemented.

The DZUKO area is one of the most interesting gene pool of endemic bio-diversities of this region. To protect the area is the service to all human kind of the North Eastern India particularly of Manipur and Nagaland. There should not be any territorial dispute in between Nagaland and Manipur for DZUKO Valley. The valley is the gift of Nature to all the mankind of this region. Hence, the academicians, environmental activists and all other people should fight together to save the DZUKO Valley from the claws of the so-called developmental projects. The people of both sides should decide by sitting together to declare the DZUKO Region as one of the rarest biosphere zones and common heritage of Manipur and Nagaland.


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