Andhra Pradesh: A holistic approach to save forests in Eastern Ghats

Podu cultivation, which has been practised by the Didoyi tribes along the hill slopes in Munchingput mandal of Visakhapatnam district, is posing a threat to the flora of the Eastern Ghats.

Podu cultivation, which has been practised by the Didoyi tribes along the hill slopes in Munchingput mandal of Visakhapatnam district, is posing a threat to the flora of the Eastern Ghats.

The Eastern Ghats, one of the prominent mountain ranges in India, run through the States of Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Odisha. Geologists predict that it was formed in the late Archean age that could range back to 4,500 million years to 2,500 million years.

A major part of this range that runs through the undivided Visakhapatnam district, which has been split into Visakhapatnam, Anakapalli and Alluri Sitharamaraju districts. Rich in minerals, flora and fauna, a major part of the forests cuts through the undivided Visakhapatnam district.

As per the Forest Department, the green cover of the Eastern Ghats spreads over around 4,500 sq km and it is a home to more than 120 rare and endangered species of trees. A part of this forest cover has been threatened by two perennial problems —Podu or shifting agriculture and forest fire.

As per a conservative estimate, about 7% to 8% of the forest have already been denuded owing to podu cultivation, an agriculture practice that has been followed by the tribal people since decades.

“This is a major challenge. We are working on an holistic approach to create awareness among the tribal people on the ill-effects of podu culture. At the same time, we are trying to provide them with an alternative crop pattern for a sustainable living,” says Visakhapatnam Divisional Forest Officer Anant Shankar.

Even as the districts have been reorganised, the area and scope of the Forest Department has not been defined yet as the old operational boundaries continue to exist.

In an attempt to understand the flora in this part of the Eastern Ghat and collect seeds and seedlings, the Forest Department launched a survey and research initiative a few months ago. “There are plenty of native species which have medicinal values. But, many of them are endangered. We are growing them at our central nursery in Kambalakonda,” says Mr. Anant Shankar.

He points out that nothing can happen without people’s participation. “We will convert the central nursery into a biodiversity park, which will have a garden of medicinal plants, an interpretation centre and an orchidarium. We want people from all walks of life including students, conservationists and photographers to be part of it,” he says.

The Forest Department is also working on scaling up the infrastructure. “Plans are afoot to set up a glass house, a green house and a lath house. We are planning to create an mobile application (app) to connect to all the stakeholders and involve them in activities such as trekking, seed collection expeditions and training. Tribal people will be a major stakeholder in all these activities,” says the DFO.

Value addition

The next step will be reforestation of barren hills with native species. The focus will be to have the forest and horticulture species such as tamarind, turmeric, rajma and jackfruit that can ensure a sustainable living to the tribal people, he explains.

“With a futuristic vision, the department is working to assist the tribal people to process forest produce for better market and income,” he says.


The Forest Department is also planning an eco-tourism project involving the tribal people at Anantagiri.

“We have got a sanction of ₹5.5. crore from the NTPC. We will start the construction of semi-permanent cottages on the identified land shortly. We will train the tribal people to maintain and operate the resort,” says Mr. Anant Shankar.

The department is also planning to link reforestation with earning carbon credits. “It will be a good source of earning for the tribal people if this works out,” he says.

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Printable version | Aug 10, 2022 5:40:59 am |