"Lotus, prized for its serene beauty, is perhaps the most spectacular plant in the aquatic environment. In India, its flower is associated with the Goddess of Wealth. It is also used for medicinal purposes. Above all, it is our National flower… But if grown on commercial basis, the consequences would be disastrous," said the Madras High Court Bench here on Thursday.

A Division Bench of Justices D. Murugesan and S. Nagamuthu made the observation while directing the Kanyakumari Collector and the Public Works Department officials not to lease out any of the water bodies in the district for cultivating lotus plants after the expiry of the current lease period. The orders were passed in a public interest litigation petition filed by a group of environmentalists.

The Bench said that cultivation of lotus plants prevents the sunlight from penetrating deep into the water bodies. It also becomes a breeding ground for mosquito and other insects which are the main carriers of water borne diseases. Recreation activities such as bathing, swimming and sight seeing were also put at stake in weedy water bodies as it might cause irritation and skin diseases.

Writing the judgement, Mr. Justice Murugesan referred to a scientific study which revealed that luxurious growth of lotus leaves would clog the ponds leading to the death of the stems and roots and their disintegration after about three months. The decayed as well as decaying plant matters of the organic debris renders the water foul besides turning it into brown colour.

“This coloured water having high organic content promotes further growth of the weeds which thrive on water with high nutrient value. The accumulation of excess nutrients in water bodies results in excessive weed growth and the area becomes swamped with algae and foreign species starving the water body of precious oxygen essential for the survival of aquatic animal life,” the judgement read.

Further, the number of water bodies in Kanyakumari district had reduced from 3,500 to 2,447 between 1962 and 1998. One of the main reasons for degradation of water bodies, was infestation by aquatic weeds gradually leading to encroachment, the judges said and appreciated the petitioners, particularly R.S. Lal Mohan, former principal scientist with the Indian Council of Agricultural Research, for filing the case.

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