Tamil Nadu

TN to have a draft policy soon to clear invasive plant species from its forests

Lantana camara forming an almost impenetrable carpet on a hillock along the Ooty-Manjoor Road. Photograph used for representational purposes only   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

By February, Tamil Nadu will have a draft policy on the ecological restoration of its forest areas infested with invasive, alien plant species.

Despite taking up efforts over the years to clear these invasive species from forests there has not been much success, and Tamil Nadu decided to frame a new policy to identify, target and weed these species out.

An announcement was made in the Assembly in September early this year in this regard. Now, the government has formed a three-member committee to come up with a draft policy within three months. V. Naganathan, APCCF (Forest Conservation Act) is the chairman. S. Anand, deputy director, Srivilliputhur Megamalai Tiger Reserve, Theni and Vismiju Viswanathan DCF (Project Formulation) are the members.

The committee will consult and get inputs from experts in this field by outsourcing, and co-opting them to prepare the draft policy, according to an order by Supriya Sahu, principal secretary, Environment, Forests and Climate Change.

The committee will identify, demarcate and assess the extent of areas infested with invasive alien species in forest areas of Tamil Nadu; formulate Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for removal, disposal and eco-restoration of infested areas and suggest permanent measures to eliminate invasive alien species.

According to the G.O., invasive plant species adversely impact the biodiversity, leading to a decline or elimination of native species through competition, predation and transmission of pathogens. They also disrupt local ecosystems.

Adverse impact on ecology

Most of the exotic tree species -- like wattle, pine and eucalyptus -- were introduced in forest areas of Tamil Nadu to satisfy industrial/commercial needs. However, they have had an adverse impact on the ecology of the area, particularly in terms of modifying/affecting hydrology, forest/grassland community, wildlife as well as leading to intensified man-wildlife conflict.

The plan is to prioritize problematic species and develop strategies to manage their proliferation In the past, there have been efforts but a comprehensive policy framework for invasive species management in forest areas was never there. It is much needed, keeping in view the serious threat posed by invasive species like Lantana camara, Acacia mearnsii, Prosopis juliflora among others. The Nilgiris district remains a classic example where at some stretches these invasive species overrun the native species and have to be weeded out yearly in a massive exercise.

The policy to control and eliminate invasive alien species needs to be developed taking stock of the invasive species cover in forest areas (species and area-wise) and ongoing weed management practices in the field, thereby incorporating learnings from best practices elsewhere. It is critical to pay immediate attention to this, to restore the habitat health to support wildlife survival as well as to avoid straying out of wild animals, the order emphasized.

Prominent problematic weeds in forest areas

Lantana camara

Acacia mearnsii

Prosopis juliflora

Eupatorium perfoliatum

Parthenium hysterophorus

Mucuna bracteatea

Eichhornia crassipes

Savlinia molesta

Ipomoea carnea

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Printable version | Jan 26, 2022 5:45:11 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/tn-to-have-a-draft-policy-soon-to-clear-invasive-plant-species-from-its-forests/article37802047.ece

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