Number of exotic species trumps indigenous ones in city; second phase to begin by month-end

Exotic species of trees such as gulmohar and copper pods outnumber indigenous ones in the city.

This was one of the findings from the first phase of a tree census spearheaded by the urban forestry division. The second phase is likely to begin in the last week of November.

Over 80,000 trees have been enumerated in Chennai so far. The census is being carried out in two phases with nearly 150 botany students and staff from various city colleges serving as volunteers. The programme began in August 2011 at Guindy National Park.

While the first phase covered mostly educational institutions, the second one will facilitate ward-wise enumeration of trees.

Some of the places covered in the first phase are Guindy National Park, IIT-Madras, Anna University, Theosophical Society, Ramakrishna Mission, Stella Maris College, Ethiraj College for Women, Nandanam Arts College and Queen Mary’s College, an official of the forest department said.

“During the census, we collect details such as the species of the tree, its girth which is the measurement of its circumference, approximate height, age, and its importance,” he said.

So far, over 150 species of trees have been identified. Forest officials are confident they will be able to find more species as the census progresses.

“Exotic species are prevalent now because they were popular until a decade ago. It is only over the past ten years that many indigenous trees were planted,” another forest official said.

The tree census that began in Pune three years ago has not been completed yet. The census has also been carried out in some areas in Mumbai and Bangalore as well, the official said.

D. Narasimhan, associate professor, Madras Christian College, who is the project coordinator of the census, said, “We work for about six to seven hours a day during the weekends. Since we cover residential neighbourhoods in the second phase, we will need the cooperation of residents.”

The census is likely to be completed by February 2013, he said.

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