‘Changes in law needed to ban eucalyptus plantations’

It would be impossible to ban eucalyptus plantations across the State without changes in the legal framework to allow for Forest Department to crackdown on planting of trees in private land, said Forest Department officials.

The Karnataka High Court, on Monday, had asked the department to consider banning eucalyptus plantations across the State. The move came after a petitioner said the non-native eucalyptus tree was responsible for the lowering groundwater levels in the region.

However, department officials said that while the ban can be enforced on government land, it would be impossible to regulate planting of eucalyptus on private land. “We will be asking the State government and the Law Department to devise a strategy for this,” said a senior forest official.

The Forest Department itself has prohibited the planting of the high-water-consuming tree in forest land since 2011. “In the decade before that, there was a high demand for eucalyptus trees especially in Kolar and Chickballapur districts, and these still remain in these areas,” said the officer.

Out of the 50,000 hectares of degraded land being afforested annually by the department, eucalyptus is barely planted on one per cent of this land, said the officials. However, private plantations still exist in large numbers that cater to the paper mills in the State.

Water consumption

A eucalyptus tree consumes 90 litres of water a day

During summers and times of drought, its roots can go down up to 30ft

Introduced in Karnataka in 1960s

In the 1970’s, eucalyptus plantations were spread across 2.1 lakh hectares

Now, after reduction of use by the Forest Department, it is on around 70,000 hectares

90 per cent of plantations are in Kolar, Chickballapur and Bengaluru Rural

Effect on Kolar

Eucalyptus is being grown on more than 30,000 hectares in Kolar

Compared to 177m mean depth of groundwater, eucalyptus plantations have increased depth to 260m

Borewell yield within 1km of plantation reduced by more than 35 per cent in five years

What the study says:

“It may not be wise to continue eucalyptus plantations in these districts in the larger interest of protecting the groundwater resources. It may be even necessary to ban its cultivation by law.”

Previous legal action:

On February 27, 2014: Madras High Court (Madurai) Bench orders the Tamil Nadu Forest Department to take action to “annihilate” eucalyptus plantations along the Western Ghats

February 2011: Karnataka Forest Department bans plantation of eucalyptus in Western Ghats and surrounding districts

Source: “Impact of eucalyptus plantations on groundwater availability in south Karnataka” by Mukund Joshi, University of Agriculture Sciences-Bengaluru, and K. Palanisami of International Water Management Institute, Hyderabad.

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Printable version | May 10, 2021 3:23:28 PM |

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