Planting of saplings in Kotagiri’s last remaining wetland criticised

Workers with the Kotagiri town panchayat were roped in to help with the plantation of trees inside the Rifle Range wetland in Kotagiri  

A government initiative to plant saplings of exotic tree species in a wetland in Kotagiri has drawn criticism from local residents and conservationists. They want the district administration to intervene and remove the saplings before any irreversible damage is done to the last remaining wetland within Kotagiri town.

The Kotagiri town panchayat on Thursday organised the mass planting of more than 600 saplings in the wetland, known as Rifle Range in Kotagiri, under the Jal Sakthi Abhiyan campaign. It invited various local organisations who had expressed their opposition to the planting drive, to take part in the event.

Conservationists said that the trees that were primarily planted in the wetland were ornamental varieties such as the yellow bauhinia, or trees not native to the landscape, like podocarpus neriifolius and magnolia champaca, along with other exotic flora. They feared that the trees could lead to irreversible damage to the biodiversity in the wetland, impact the hydrology and lead to the spread of invasive species in Rifle Range, which was already facing enormous pressure from the human inhabitations that lived around it.

K.J. Raju, secretary of the Longwood Shola Watchdog Committee and a local resident who has been fighting to save the Rifle Range wetland, said the entire wetland had been spoiled by the planting of exotic plants, which could have an impact on the hydrology in the area.

Mr. Raju said residents and activists planned to meet the District Collector and demand that these be removed so that efforts to restore the wetland could be undertaken. The wetland itself had diminished in size over the last few years to a fraction of its original size, due to the increasing number of building constructions and agricultural fields.

Sangeetha Ramakrishnan, a resident, who has been part of clean-ups to remove discarded waste from the wetland, said “though many groups objected to the saplings being planted in Rifle Range, the town panchayat still went ahead with its plans, which is discouraging.”

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Printable version | Dec 5, 2021 5:57:24 AM |

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