Spraying weedicides to control undergrowth in vacant plots will wipe out local plant and animal biodiversity, conservationists have warned.

The Health Standing Committee of the Kochi Corporation had last week decided to buy 250 litres of weedicide to be used in vacant plots in the city. The move was aimed at checking the breeding of mosquitoes in the holdings and to prevent people from dumping refuse there.

Opposing the move, Vishnupriyan Kartha, secretary of Cochin Natural History Society, said the application of weedicides would seriously affect the local plant and animal biodiversity of the region.

A large number of plants found on roadsides and vacant plots in and around the city are medicinal. The plants that are often considered weeds play an important role in supporting the plant and animal diversity of the region. The removal of such plants would affect the large number of butterfly and dragonfly species too, he said.

The loss of dragonflies, which are insectivores, will result in an increase in mosquito population. The weedicide programme will, thus, only help increase pest population. Butterflies and other insects, which play an important role in pollination, would also be affected by weedicides, he said.

The thick bushes found in the city house a good number of small animals and birds too. Birds such as red spur fowl and animals such as palm civet, Malabar civet, mongoose and black napped hare may be found in these bushes. Many resident and migratory bird species used the areas as breeding grounds, which would be lost if weedicide was applied, he said.

B. Sreekumar, president of Kottayam Nature Society, said the decision to apply weedicides should be taken only after required deliberations. A series of safety measures also need to be taken if they are to be applied. The society would approach the Kerala State Biodiversity Board against the move of the Kochi Corporation, he said.

T.K. Ashraf, chairman of the Health Standing Committee of the Kochi Corporation, which took the decision to buy weedicides, said the local body would revisit the decision in the wake of warnings from green activists. The civic body would look into the concerns raised by the conservationists before taking a final call, Mr. Ashraf said.