Exotic species planted a few years ago has invaded marshes, shola forests and grasslands

Effective coordination and cooperation of all sections of people are essential for regeneration of shola forests and removal of exotic species, according to District Forest Officer D. Venkatesh.

Delivering a special address at a workshop on Shola Regeneration in Kodaikanal Forest Division, organised by the Forest Department here on Sunday, he said exotic species that were planted a few years ago had invaded marshes, shola forests and grasslands. Destruction of a large habitat had already driven Indian gaurs out of forests, increasing man-animal conflict. Kodaikanal recorded seven attacks by Indian gaurs last year. Many gaurs had moved to Periyakulam and Thandikudi ranges from upper Palni hills, he added. “Localised approach and scientific study are the needs of the hour.”

Exotic species had encroached upon marsh lands. But the present situation demanded a longer time frame for eradication of exotic species and restoration of swamps. The need to develop habitat for wildlife was necessary and restoration of grasslands, shola forests and swamps demanded immediate attention.

Awareness should be created among people before beginning the restoration process for better results, he opined. Palani Hills Conservation Centre president Madhu Ramnath advised to focus on grassland restoration before touching shola forests and asked the stakeholders not to rush in removing the exotic species like wattle and eucalyptus in the highly tampered eco-system.

Naturalist Tanya Balcar asked authorities to prioritise the removal of young exotic plants in the swamps and grasslands instead of removing full-grown plants. A majority of shola forests were invaded by pine population.

Gandhigram Rural Institute Assistant Professor T. Anantha Vijayah said adverse climatic conditions, animal intervention, species availability, and long time frame for saplings production were the hurdles in the restoration process. Besides, traditional methods and tissue culture could be used to propagate rare and endangered species with researchers in the GRI and Mother Teresa University. Environmentalist A. Michael said acute caution was necessary while cutting exotic trees, removing debris, clearing litter, producing saplings, planting and maintenance, and replanting. An expert committee – a body answerable only to court – had to be appointed to guide in project implementation. Similarly, periodical report could be filed with the Madurai Bench of Madras High Court, he added.

Freelance biochemist P. Vijayakumar said tribals could be involved in gathering seeds, cutting species and in the rejuvenation process. NSS volunteers could be roped in for regeneration.