Massive greening programme in Tiruvannamalai

AFFORESTATION: Saplings kept at the Forest Nursery at Athiyandhal near Tiruvannamalai. — Photo: D. Gopalakrishnan  

As part of its greening efforts, the Forest Department is all set to take up a massive tree sapling plantation drive on the Tiruvannamalai Hills under the National Afforestation Programme (NAP).

Under the programme it will plant about 50,000 saplings in 260 hectares of Adi Annamalai Reserve Forest area situated in the hill in order to improve its green cover.

Most of the Tiruvannamalai Hills and the surrounding forests come under Adi Annamalai reserve forests. Barring the eastern slope which is under Sri Arunachaleswarar Temple's control, all the other sides are growing greener thanks to relentless efforts of the Forest Department and other non-governmental organisations, in planting tree saplings and preventing and extinguishing forest fire.

Out of 699.3 hectares of forest in and around Tiruvannamalai hill, the department has already planted in 275 acres over the years. The present drive to plant 260 ha in one go is the single largest drive ever taken up in the hill.

For this purpose, an enormous nursery is being raised near Athiyandhal irrigation tank, where the saplings are well grown and ready to be planted. A.V.Venkatachalam, Conservator of Forests, Vellore, said that they have chosen about 25 species including those considered holy by way of being sthala virukshas of various temples and those considered to be auspices to certain stars in astrology.

Since several lakh people come round this hill for spiritual solace every month, we nurtured the idea of planting religiously important trees.

The tree species found in the nursery include (Tamil names) Rosewood, Mahagani, Red Sandal, Naval, Kumizh, Silavagai, Moongil (bamboo), Pungan, Pala (Jack), Maa (Mango), Parambai, Malai Vembu, Arasu (Peepal), Aal (Banyan), Murukkan, Alari, Agathi, Vilvam, Vengai, Nelli (Indian gooseberry), Vanni, Iluppai and Neermathi.

“We have a system of selecting species to plant. We would track the past history and find out what are all the species present earlier in the same forest.

After choosing suitable list of trees we would shortlist it to prepare a final list,” Mr.Venkatachalam said.

Tiruvannamalai Forest Range Officer Karunamurthi said that pits are being taken in the hill and three percolation ponds are dug in the hill to harvest water for the plants. “Saplings are well grown and we would plant them in September once we got downpour,” Mr.Karunamurthi added.

Forest activist Peter said that those species chosen by the Forest Department were good. However, he added that they could add some species like Kal Thurinji, Veppalai, Marutham, Nuna, Kattuvagai, Magudam, Nammai, Kungiliyam, Athi and Kal Aathi.

A.D. Balasubramaniyan

in Tiruvannamalai