Mass planting of exotic trees in Nilgiris harmful-THE HINDU-13-01-2020
A Coonoor-based trust proposal to plant more than 10,000 trees in the Nilgiris.
The trust plans to plant trees in order to restore the degraded forests and to give impetus to the afforestation efforts in the region.
Most of the trees will be exotic flora like jacaranda and podocarpus, pine and bottlebrush.
Conservationists argue that this mass plantation drive will be harmful to the environment in the long term.
Affecting the ecosystem:
Exotic trees have a huge impact on soil chemistry on the ground, preventing native grass, plants and herbs from taking root underneath the canopy. They behave like an alien species, sharing the available resources and thus reducing the number of native species.
The reduced floral biodiversity will, in turn, affect the wildlife of the region.
High Water demand:
After the exotics take root, they increase the water demand in that region, impacting not just the Nilgiris but other districts further downstream that rely on rivers emanating from the hills.
Given the reliance of the region on water supply from these rivers this might lead to a water stress condition in the region.
Afforestation and reforestation initiatives are welcome, but they need to give consideration to the species selected for the initiatives.
There needs to be a better understanding of the ecological restoration practices that can be implemented when working in a landscape as crucial and sensitive as the Nilgiris.
The basic character of the land should not be altered in the name of afforestation. Only native grasses should be grown in what were previously grasslands, or Shola trees should be grown where they existed previously.