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Activists oppose clearcutting of exotic species in Palani Hills

Updated: Nov 13, 2020

KODAIKANAL, August 24, 2015

Updated: August 24, 2015 06:09 IST

Activists oppose clearcutting of exotic species in Palani Hills




Environmentalists feel allowing rainforest species to grow will effectively stop the spread of wattle in the grasslands. A file picture of workers collecting the cleared wattle tree logs in Kodaikanal.— Photo: Kodaikanal Forest Division

Say Forest department plan will prove to be an ecological disaster

Naturalists and environmentalists here have appealed to the government to be cautious while removing exotic species like wattle and eucalyptus which are spread in more than 200 square km in the Palni hills.

The Forest Department has a proposal for clear cutting these two exotic species. “Clearcutting will be an ecological disaster affecting the entire ecosystem of the watersheds across north and south of the Palni Hills,” says Pippa Mukherjee of INTACH.

Instead, the department should let Shola (rainforest) species to grow and prosper in the wattle shade and finally overtake the exotic species. This can effectively stop the spread of wattle in the grasslands, say activists.

“In this process, the wattle will die of fungal disease naturally without sunlight,” says Ms. Mukherjee.

“We should understand that old wattle forest will act as a nursery for new shola [native species] growth because many of the shola species like shade to germinate and wattle lives on sun light,” she added.

Using chainsaws to remove wattle would certainly worsen the situation, warn activists, emphasising that clearcutting wattle as part of forestry management or resource management could prove to have disastrous consequences. World over, clear cutting is seen as detrimental to rain forest ecosystems, she said.

After clearcutting of wattle, lantana camera (unni) and other exotic, bushy weeds would grow with the exposure to the heat and light in the open field. Moreover, sunlight simply encourages regeneration of tonnes of wattle seeds that remain viable for germination for fifty years. Indiscriminate felling of wattle and eucalyptus would also annihilate new shola saplings and other small trees, says R. Kannan of Palni Hills Conservation Council (PHCC).

A guided tour of the clearcut areas would certainly offer a first-hand experience of the irremediable devastation already wrought in the Palni Hills, he said, urging the government to take up a short term survey.

Silviculture

“Movement of heavy vehicles into plantation areas would also destroy regeneration of native species. Ultimately, it would lead to mini-ecological disaster. Inhibit its spread from plantations into existing native grasslands through regular culling. Allowing them to die naturally would be viable solution to wattle menace,” recommends P. R. Ashok Raj of ACT India Foundation.

To restore Shola forests, Aalap Dikshit, Department of Natural Resources, TERI University, New Delhi, who did research on wattle in Kodaikanal, too opposes removing acacia plantations and to consider silvicultural options in the management of the plantations to enhance the nursing effect on shola tree species.

Directing the State government to file a status report before on September 28, the Madras High Court made it clear that it was not issuing any direction to cut down wattle and eucalyptus trees from the Western Ghats.


Our note. Not entirely accurate, ie. Woody species are still spreading into grasslands. Note the bulging canker on dying Wattle.


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