Eradication of exotic and invasive species from Western Ghats | Madras High Court judges hold meeting with T.N. officials

Justices N. Sathish Kumar and D. Bharatha Chakravarthy participated in the meeting, and urged officials to increase the pace of work in the removal of invasive species, in order to restore the shola forests of the Western Ghats

Published - June 15, 2024 12:47 pm IST - CHENNAI

Lantana camara forming an almost impenetrable carpet on a hillock along the Ooty-Manjoor Road. File photograph

Lantana camara forming an almost impenetrable carpet on a hillock along the Ooty-Manjoor Road. File photograph | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

After successfully reducing tourist footfall to Udhagamandalam (Ooty) and Kodaikanal through the introduction of the e-pass system during the summer season, the Madras High Court has now embarked on its next exercise of giving an impetus to the eradication of exotic and invasive species such as Lantana camara and Senna spectabilis to restore the shola forests in the Western Ghats.

Justices N. Sathish Kumar and D. Bharatha Chakravarthy participated in a meeting with the secretaries of the Environment, Forest and Climate Change Department, the Public Works Department, Rural Development and Panchayat Raj Department and the Principal Chief Conservator of Forests in the High Court buildings on Friday, June 14, 2024, and insisted on 100% eradication of invasive species.

The Conservator of Forests and Field Director of Mudumalai Tiger Reserve at Udhagamandalam and amici curiae T. Mohan, Chevanan Mohan, Rahul Balaji and M. Santhanaraman also participated in the meet. It was a special Division Bench comprising Justices Kumar and Chakravarthy, hearing a batch of forest-related cases, that had suggested the conduct of such a meet on April 13, 2024.

However, the law officers had failed to convene the meeting on that day. On June 7, 2024, during the hearing of a related case, the Bench expressed its displeasure over this inaction and hence the meeting was convened on Friday, when the progress made so far in removing the invasive species, the challenges faced by the State machinery and the future course of action were discussed.

Separate policy

Though it was brought to the notice of the judges that Tamil Nadu was the first State in the country to formulate a separate policy titled Tamil Nadu Policy on Invasive Alien Plant Species and Ecological Restoration of Habitats (TNPIPER), the judges expressed concern over the slow pace of removal of the invasive species such as Lantana camara and Senna spectabilis from the Western Ghats.

They pointed out that only 2,000 hectares out of the targeted area of 3 lakh hectares had been cleared so far not even covering 1% of the area affected. When the government authorities highlighted challenges such as lack of local support, the judges said, private companies could also be involved in the work through their Corporate Social Responsiblity (CSR) activities.

After taking into account issues such as movement of wild animals and rainfall as the reasons for the delay in removal of invasive species, the judges impressed upon the officials, the need to take qualitative action so that Tamil Nadu could set an example for other States to emulate. The meeting also deliberated upon steps being taken to eradicate seemai karuvelam (Prosopis juliflora) from various places across the State.

The officials were asked to report on progress during the judicial hearings to take place from June 28, 2024.

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