Friday, 31 August 2012

TNAU to make Eastern Ghats greener

While the Western Ghats have always been known as the green corridor of South India, the state government has taken up an ambitious initiative to increase green cover in the eastern part of the state as part of a 10-year-plan.

Senior research scientist, Dr K. Ramasamy, who has taken charge as vice-chancellor of Tamil Nadu Agricultural University (TNAU), unveiled the plan on Thursday and said the university would play an active role in the project.

“It is an accepted norm for all countries and states to have 33 percentage of land covered by forests for sustainable growth. We presently have only 22 per cent of green cover and by planting more trees and plants we can increase our green cover to at least 27 per cent,” said Dr Ramasamy.

The eastern part of the state has always been vulnerable to unforeseen weather conditions such as cyclones and related flooding.According to scientists at TNAU, the green cover that would be established by planting perennials and native species would protect inland flora and fauna besides villagers from natural disasters to a reasonable extent.

“Our natural vegetation in Tamil Nadu is a canopy of forests, hence, the green cover that we generate will also be canopy-oriented which will not hamper the local ecology,” he said.
Besides increasing the forest land, the green cover project is also expected to provide secondary income to farmers. “We would first be de-silting all tanks along the east coast to ensure better storage and flood management. Once that is achieved, inland fisheries would increase as would the forests surrounding them, besides providing wood and other natural produce, it would also shelter the inland fishing activities, thereby increasing revenue for farmers as part of our social forestry initiative,” Dr Ramasamy said.

These forests would be developed only on barren lands, classified as uncultivated fallow, with cooperation from the corporate sector and forest department. Besides trees, the department would also plant various types of grass to help prevent soil erosion and provide fodder for cattle.

“Secondary agricultural revenue is the only means for increasing the revenue of farmers and the agricultural university would work in that direction,” the vice-chancellor told Deccan Chronicle.

Random planting may disturb ecology

While the government’s ambitious plan to develop social forests in the eastern part of the state, to increase revenue for farmers besides improving the forest cover, has been generally welcomed by environmentalists, they also fear that if the project is not meticulously planned, it might damage local eco-systems.

“Agro forestry and developing forests in private and government land have been mooted by the government and is a welcome move. But, it has to be done judiciously and should not interfere with the native ecology of a region,” said Dr D. Narasimhan, professor of plant biology at Madras Christian College (MCC), and a biodiversity expert.

“While it is a good initiative to increase revenue for farmers and adding more green cover is always good, we have to plan it a little carefully and ensure that the greenery is permanent and not harvested for commercial gain,” he cautioned.

“Such efforts would cause carbon sequencing imbalance,” said the MCC professor.
Another senior plant biologist has said that not all landscapes were suitable for creating forests.
“Several parts of eastern Tamil Nadu have always been shrub forest with sparse presence of trees.

Historically, this area has always been less vegetated,” said the senior researcher based in Chennai.
“Creating forests in such landscapes could introduce new changes in the lifecycle of local plants and animals as well as the residents of these regions. Such factors should also be thoroughly studied before planting trees indiscriminately,” he said.

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