Staff Reporter

Afforestation of Anamalai hills continues; Tata Coffee Ltd joins initiative

VALPARAI: The programme to afforest Anamalai hills, where man-animal conflict is a continuous cause for concern, is gaining momentum.

With Tata Coffee Limited joining the initiative the number of companies helping the Mysore-based Nature Conservation Foundation implement the programme rose to four. There are seven major companies in Valparai.

The programme is on since 2001. According to scientists of the NCF, a total of 11,850 saplings of 120 trees and climbers have been planted in 16 degraded sites covering nine hectares in the last five years.

It has planted 2,000 saplings this year.

More than 70 per cent of the saplings has survived.

Under the programme only species characteristic of the rainforest are planted.

The programme was initiated with the help of Hindustan Lever Limited (HLL). It deided to protect and restore three rainforest patches at Injipara (19 ha), Stanmore (5 ha) and Sirikundra (3.5 ha). The present owner of these estates, Tea Estates India Limited (TEI, Woodbriar Group) continued with the programme. Subsequently, Parry Agro Industries (PAI) Ltd joined the initiative in 2004, Bombay Burmah Trading Corporation Ltd in 2005.

The NCF scientists have identified 40 areas in over 500 hectares within these plantations, which the local companies are now trying to protect. In addition, three companies (BBTC, PAI, Tata Coffee) have planted 7,700 saplings as shade trees in coffee and vanilla plantations as part of the programme. This is aimed at reversing the use of ecologically harmful exotic species such as silver oak and eucalypts, the scientists said.

Five native rainforest species are considered for planting as an alternative to replace silver oaks in tea plantations (tea requires less shade whereas coffee and vanilla needs more) in an initiative between NCF and the United Planters' Association of South India at Valparai.

Estate managements provide nursery space and partial labour support to NCF, which gets support from various national and international bodies. A dedicated rainforest plant nursery has been established at Injipara estate of TEI. At present, it has around 25,000 seedlings of 100 species. The NCF has set up a long-term Rainforest Restoration Research Station at Valparai.