Govt. must act on a war footing to uproot 'seemai karuvelam' trees, says Vaiko

Updated - November 28, 2021 09:48 pm IST

Published - February 28, 2017 07:56 am IST

MDMK general secretary Vaiko.

MDMK general secretary Vaiko.

For MDMK general secretary Vaiko , who has fought several political and legal battles, the Madras High Court’s direction to the State government to enact a legislation to uproot seemai karuvelam (prosopis juliflora) trees, an invasive species, from Tamil Nadu has indeed come as a big recognition of his untiring efforts. In an interview with B. Kolappan, he explains what led him to approach the court on the issue and why the government must act on a war footing to remove the trees. Excerpts:

What prompted you to approach the court for eradicating s eemai karuvelam ?

I have witnessed the impact of the plant on the environment in my village. It has covered almost all water bodies and reduced their capacity to hold water. Besides, it also sucks water and makes the land arid. Its growth in irrigation canals obstructs the flow of water. It has severely affected agriculture. Already, we are facing a water crisis and the presence of the tree is aggravating the situation. If you accidentally step on the tree’s thorn, it not only causes severe pain but the wound takes a lot of time to heal. In the case of diabetes patients, the effect is even more lasting. So much so that even farmers involved in MGNREGS are not ready to clear them. The tree has enormous capacity for survival and it can be stemmed only by uprooting it with the help of earth movers.

There is an opinion that removing the trees would lead to shortage of firewood and charcoal...

Communist parties are saying that eradication of seemai karuvelam will permanently close the resource for firewood. They are living in an old world. Natural gas has reached even the remotest part of the country. Seemai karuvelam has elbowed out a lot of native species and medicinal herbs. Its pods are eaten by cattle and the undigested seeds spread the plant to other areas.

What was the response to your effort to remove the plant in your area?

When I launched struggles against Sterlite Industries in Thoothukudi and the coalbed methane project, there was not much of support. But in this case, there is awareness among the youth and they actively participated in removing seemai karuvelam . I have asked my party cadre not to keep the party flag during our campaign because I do not want to give it a political colour. When a Division Bench of the Madras High Court directed the government to take efforts to remove the plant in 2015, it was not taken seriously. Now Justices A. Selvam and P. Kalaiyarasan have taken a very serious view of the issue and directed the government to enact a law to eradicate the plant. Justice Selvam had placed on record his appreciation for my work and I feel proud.

What is the next step  in this battle?

It is a long battle. Efforts are required on a war footing and the government should release adequate funds to fulfil the objective. People and civil society should join hands with the government machinery to uproot the plant from our soil.

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