In the era of WhatsApp and Google play, a tree lover in Chennai with engineering background has counted the number of exotic species planted by Tamil Nadu Forest Department by clearing natural shrubs in Vandalur.
In his complaint to the office of principal chief conservator of forests, Bharathi said that the foresters have planted exotic breeds that can easily spread their seeds through wind. Quoting species like Spathodea campunlata, Tabebuia Rosea, Cordia Sebastina and Mahagony, which came from Africa for timber, the environmentalist noted that some of the trees have already naturalised in Chennai entering vacant spaces.
“Most of these colourful trees are planted in and around the Vandalur Zoo and when I raised the issue with zoo authorities, they informed that about 20,000 native trees were planted as part of Cyclone Vardah rehabilitation programme, but most of the trees planted are exotic,” Bharathi told DT Next.
There are issues with exotic trees as they do not support the bird population. Further their seed dispersal is faster when compared to native species. Invasion may even spread to the adjacent reserve forest coming under Tambaram and Chengalpet forest range. The soil will also get affected by Allelopathy, a process under which the bio chemicals produced by exotic plants will not allow native plants to grow, Bharathi explained.
An informed wildlife source, who frequents the Vandalur Zoo and the state forest research institute, also confirmed that the foresters have cleared large tracts of natural shrubs and indigenous climbers to pave way for executing the massive tree planting programme. “Clearing of scrubs and climbers weakens the quality of soil thereby reducing the food resource of insects and mammals like hare, squirrel, porcupines, palm civet and monkeys,” the source explained adding that the project was almost over and there is no thought of removing the planted trees.
When contacted, a senior forest official said that the issue will be examined for further action.