Court seeks report on restoring shola forests in Western Ghats

The Madras High Court Bench here on Thursday directed the Principal Chief Conservator of Forests to submit a report in the court on steps taken by him to restore the shola forests (a stunted evergreen forest) and eradicate wattle and eucalyptus trees from the Western Ghats.

A Division Bench comprising Justice R. Sudhakar and Justice V.M. Velumani ordered that the report should be submitted by April 7. The order was passed on a public interest litigation petition filed by lawyer M. Saravanan. Observing that the case involved greater public interest, the judges directed the High Court Registry to post it for hearing on the first working day of every month so that the court could monitor the work taken up by the Forest Department and issue appropriate directions periodically.

In his affidavit, the petitioner submitted that the Western Ghats region boasted a unique mosaic of stunted montane evergreen forests called shola.

These montane grasslands were the only habitats of the Nilgiri Tahr, an ungulate endemic to the Nilgiri Hills and southern parts of the Western Ghats.

In the last few years, the fast-growing commercial exotic species such as eucalyptus and wattle from Australia had replaced the shola forest on the high slopes. These trees had become a serious threat to the movement of wildlife as well as the growth of native plants, the petitioner claimed.

“The alarming reduction in grassland and shola cover is well within the knowledge of all the concerned. However, no effective attempts are taken for their regeneration,” the petitioner’s affidavit read. It also stated that the Forest Department had stopped removing the wattle from 2010.

“In Kodaikanal forest division alone, the wattle, eucalyptus and other exotic species have swallowed nearly 22,000 hectares of shola forest and grasslands. The wattle growth dries up waterholes forcing the animals to stray into human settlements, besides curtailing the movement of elephants,” it added.

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Printable version | Jul 26, 2021 8:13:35 AM |

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