Seed-sowing completed in Bandipur to reclaim grassland

The Forest Department has taken up extensive sowing of grass seeds in Bandipur to improve the habitat.

The Forest Department has taken up extensive sowing of grass seeds in Bandipur to improve the habitat.  

About 10 tonnes of different species of grass and bamboo have been planted

In a bid to rejuvenate the degraded ecosystem in parts of Bandipur Tiger Reserve, the Forest Department has completed the first and second phases of sowing seeds of various varieties of grass including bamboo. This was described as an effort to reclaim the habitat from Lantana and Epatorium weeds that have proliferated across Bandipur and cover almost 60% of the park.

Conservator of Forests T. Balachandra said that almost 10 tonnes of different species of grass and bamboo have been planted and the sowing operation concluded on Saturday. “We have covered nearly 3,000 acres of forest mainly in the Himavad Gopalswamy Betta range and have placed indent for an additional 10 tonnes of seeds from the Forest Department nurseries,” he added.

The GS Betta range was also among the worst affected during this year’s forest fire that devastated nearly 4,000 hectares of forest. But Mr. Balachandra said the fire engulfed the hillocks but the sowing took place in the plains below in the GS Betta range where there still is scope for growth of vegetation. “If we take up seed sowing ahead of the monsoon or soon after for three to five years, a large portion of the grassland of Bandipur can be reclaimed and will help the herbivores,” he said.

The exercise began in the last week of May with the onset of the pre-monsoon rain. The soil received adequate moisture and the ground was soggy enough to take up sowing. “Pre-monsoon and rainy season is the best time to take up sowing. Even if a small portion of the seeds sowed take root and flower, it would add to forest rejuvenation,” he added.

Mr. Balachandra said seed sowing will be an ongoing exercise to ensure that the forest was rejuvenated and the fodder availability for herbivores increased. Till the department nurseries can fulfil their demand for an additional 10 tonnes of seeds, forest guards from anti-poaching camps have been entrusted with the task of collecting seeds of indigenous grass varieties. The plan is to collect about 10 to 15 kg of seeds of the indigenous variety of grasses and sow them in the BS Betta range. The exercise was conducted by the department staff as an earlier campaign to start a seed-ball sowing drive was shot down by the authorities as it entailed the risk of non-indigenous species being planted and turning into invasive weeds.

Activists sceptical of outcome

The Forest Department’s seed sowing exercise has its share of critics sceptical of its long-term outcome. Wildlife activists have argued that sowing 10 to 20 tonnes of seeds over 3,000 acres of natural forests was totally inadequate and would not help in suppression of lantana.

They also said that the recent rains led to heavy overflow of the water which carried top soil along with it and hence only a small fraction of the seeds sowed may have survived.

The rationale for the sowing was to rejuvenate the forests and reclaim the grassland but activists argue that uprooting lantana during monsoon when the soil was damp was a better option.

Lantana should be uprooted four to five times a year in the same area so as to reduce its density and enable other species of grass to grow naturally, said the critics. It was pointed out that a plot of land on the road to Mangala (in Bandipur) where lantana was continuously uprooted for years, supports a higher density of grass and plays host to a large number of herbivores and hence was a better option.

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Printable version | Mar 27, 2020 11:14:22 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/karnataka/seed-sowing-completed-in-bandipur-to-reclaim-grassland/article29128567.ece

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