Economically beneficial, but ecologically hazardous. Bearing this description, the eucalyptus trees of the Blue Mountains have for sometime now been in focus.

With scientists and environmentalists endorsing their reputation of being ecological predators, those depending on them for their livelihood have become apprehensive about their future.

Abdul Rehman, president of The Nilgiris District Eucalyptus Oil Producers, Workers and Traders Welfare Association, told The Hindu that a proposal to remove eucalyptus trees along with other exotics such as wattle, which emerged at a workshop held here recently, has become a serious source of concern among all those engaged in the eucalyptus oil industry.

Pointing out that many benefited either directly or indirectly from the leaves of the eucalyptus trees, he said that the eucalyptus oil was a popular ‘carry home’ item among tourists. Claiming that the eucalyptus trees helped prevent landslides and protected grasslands, he said that more area should be brought under eucalyptus trees.

District Forest Officer, The Nilgiris North, B.Sugirtharaj Koilpillai, said that at present about 1,500 to 2,000 hectares were under eucalyptus plantations in the North division and about 4,000 hectares in the South division.

As per a decision of the Government, the area had not been expanded for the past few years. Till about four years ago, the plantations used to be let out for pulpwood extraction by the Tamil Nadu Newsprint and Papers Limited.

Now there was a move to supply pulpwood to some other industries and reject wood to the Industrial Cooperative Tea Factories. It would help the eucalyptus oil sector get a large quantity of leaves.

There was also another proposal to remove all the eucalyptus trees. However, a decision was yet to be taken by the Government.

O.P.S. Khola, Head, Central Soil and Water Conservation Research and Training Institute, said that though on economic terms eucalyptus trees were good, they were not good from the ecology point of view.

Pointing out that The Nilgiris was a major source of water and electricity, he said that a 26-year study in the Glenmorgan area near here had shown that the eucalyptus trees and wattle affected the hydrological flow.

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