Tamil Nadu

Eco panels in the Nilgiris restore native habitats during pandemic

Native shola species being planted by eco-development committee members near Udhagamandalam. Photo: M. Sathyamoorthy  

While most of the Eco-Development Committees (EDCs), tasked with providing environmentally sustainable livelihoods to tribal residents in the Nilgiris, have been shut due to the closure of the district to tourists, the Pagalkodu Mund EDC near Udhagamandalam is restoring native Shola habitats in places overrun with invasive species.

Northey Kuttan, president of the Pagalkodu Mund EDC, said that during the pandemic, 18 persons employed at the EDC, were being engaged in getting rid of Cestrum nocturnum plants which had encroached on native Shola habitats in the Wenlock Downs area.

“The spread of Cestrum nocturnum is a threat to all Shola and grassland habitats as it does not allow any native flora to thrive, Mr. Kuttan told The Hindu.

Since the time when the COVID-19 pandemic started, the Todas, who are in charge of taking care of the Pagalkodu Mund EDC, encompassing the Ninth Mile Shooting Spot, have removed more than two hectares of Cestrum plants.

“The Cestrum plants, unless completely removed with their roots, will keep sprouting and keep taking over Shola and native grasslands,” said Mr. Kuttan.

The Todas are also growing their own saplings and have set up a nursery which will have more than 7,000 saplings of native Shola trees ready to be planted in the landscape in the coming years. “We estimate that it will take around 4-5 years to clear all the invasive plants located from Sandynallah to Pykara and reintroduce native flora,” added Mr. Kuttan.

The Forest Department has been encouraging the local EDCs to carry out afforestation of native flora during the period when tourism is banned in the Nilgiris.

District Forest Officer, D. Guruswamy, said that afforestation works were a vital facet of each EDC in the district. “Apart from the commendable work of the Pagalkodu Mund EDC, other EDCs too, such as the Doddabetta EDC and the Pykara EDC too are involved in huge clean-up operations and habitat-restoration works, which will not only benefit local tribal communities, but also the habitat,” said Mr. Guruswamy.

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Printable version | Oct 22, 2020 6:56:48 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/eco-panels-in-the-nilgiris-restore-native-habitats-during-pandemic/article32080982.ece

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