Report on the Activities of Robert Stewart & Tanya Balcar and the Vattakanal Conservation Trust
Activities 2015 - 2016
We have consolidated our Shola tree and grassland nurseries into one with a focus on the rare, endangered and threatened plants of the Palni Hills. We also have a horticultural section with three greenhouses.
A continued focus on rubbish collection from the Pambar Shola and the stream running into it with the help of school children, local youth and a team of three paid women workers.
Visits from local schools to learn about the Shola and grasslands and the rare species.
Several consultancy meetings with both the Tamil Nadu Forest Department and the Kerala Forest Department on the subject of exotic plantations and saving our existing grasslands. We have given a presentation “Expanding Sholas and Dwindling Grasslands” to these meetings. The presentation has also been shown to various NGO’s and schools.
Continued work on our book about the germination, growth details and observations of most plants above 1500m over the last 30 years. It includes detailed growing methods and censoring of trees to c. 25 years of age. This book will be of use to the Forest Department and others interested in growing these species.
Donation of Shola trees to the Forest Department campus in Kodaikanal including several rare species.
Continued encouragement and facilitation to local people wishing to grow Shola trees and native plants.
Funding from INTACH for a project in collaboration with the Forest Department to map the existing grasslands, Sholas and plantations. The research/mapping work will be carried out by scientists from NCBS and ATREE, Bangalore. Two films will be made by a qualified filmmaker to generate awareness of the importance of the grasslands. One for policy makers and one for the general public. This project also includes a restoration effort at Ibex Cliff to Ullam Parai which is our contribution to the project that we will undertake in April/May subject to clearance.
A Heritage Tree Walk around Kodaikanal has been completed for INTACH and will be published by May. The trees include native Shola trees and exotics.
These include re-engagement with the Vattaparai marsh restoration with the active help of the Forest Department. Subject to a small amount of fencing spot planting of Shola trees, weeding and rubbish clearance in Bombay Shola would be undertaken.
We would like to do joint tree planting programmes with the Forest Department as we have done successfully in the past.
Other activities detailed above will be continued with the mapping project being carried over to Kerala (Munnar Division) who have asked for our help. We would act as advisors regarding vegetation and species and would attend the final meetings with the respective Forest Departments.