The Madras High Court on Wednesday directed the State government to frame a scheme within two weeks for eradicating Seemai Karuvelam ( prosopis juliflora ) trees from all districts in the State.
A Full Bench of Acting Chief Justice Munishwar Nath Bhandari, Justice N. Sathish Kumar and Justice P.D. Audikesavalu passed the interim orders on a batch of cases pending since 2015. Wondering what the government has been doing since 2017, when it was decided to obtain expert opinion on the harmful effects of the invasive species, the Bench impressed upon the need to act fast.
The Bench said there were enough material to prove that the exotic species brings down the ground water table and affects the fertility of lands where it grows. When Additional Advocate General S. Silambanan expressed the government’s inclination to remove the trees, the judges said there was no point in simply cutting them because they regrow in no time.
The Bench insisted on uprooting the trees in such a way that they do not regrow at the same place. Otherwise, it would lead to waste of manpower and financial resources, they told the AAG.
The ACJ said the entire highway between Madurai and Rameswaram was dotted with Seemai Karuvelam because of the failure of eradication measures taken in the past. He said, the scheme to be framed by the government now, could be executed under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) by involving the local residents.
Collectors to monitor
Further, the respective Collectors could be asked to monitor the work and ensure uprooting within their territorial jurisdiction, the Bench suggested.
It was a Division Bench of Justices A. Selvam and P. Kalaiyarasan (both retired now), which had undertaken a massive exercise across the State in 2015 for eradicating the invasive species.
It was done following public interest litigation (PIL) petitions filed by former Madurai Mayor M. Patturajan, Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (MDMK) leader Vaiko and others.
The Bench had then, appointed a team of advocate commissioners for every district to monitor eradication work. The district judges too were asked to keep an eye on the works.However, after doubts were raised in certain quarters about the correctness of eradicating the trees, since they serve as habitat for birds, the matter was taken up by a Full Bench.