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Native species over invasive: This Tamil Nadu village is a pioneer in climate action
Vast patches of wastelands in the region were invaded by the alien, invasive Karuvelam tree or prosopis juliflora
Anukkur village, located in the Perambalur district of Tamil Nadu, receives only a moderate rainfall of 600-800 millimetres per annum. Though it is located about 6 kilometres from the eastern slope of Pachchamalais, part of the Eastern Ghats, the village is notable for its arid terrains and not-so-prosperous agriculture.
Vast patches of wastelands in the region were invaded by the alien, invasive Karuvelam tree or prosopis juliflora. This species extracts maximum water from the ground, impacting the groundwater levels. In addition, the area started receiving scanty rainfall due to insufficient tree cover.
Also read: How to save Banni grasslands from invasive species? Here’s what a new study suggests
Though more than a thousand hectares of land here are agricultural land, less than a hundred hectares (ha) are irrigated through wells and tube wells. Lakes and tanks irrigate a meagre portion of about 5 ha.
The village has a government higher secondary school. The youth here are fortunate to have received a school education, and many are employed in foreign countries.
One such student, Ilayaraja, undertook an initiative called Pasumai Payanam (green journey) to replace Karuvelam with beneficial plant species with the help of the old students as well as the villagers. The journey commenced by him in 2017 has been continuing successfully to date. Ilayaraja understood the ill effects of the alien invasive species and the need for green cover to maintain a comfortable groundwater level.
The villagers appreciated the initiative and started removing the invasive alien species from the school premises, government offices, hospitals, the panchayat office, government poramboke (wasteland) and roadsides.
Instead, they started planting useful tree species such as calophylluminophyllum (punnai), couroupitaguinanensis (nagalingam), elaeocarpus species (rudraksham), anthocephalus cadamba (kadambu), bassia latifolia (iluppai), ficus glomerata (aththi), ficus lacor (ichchi), azadirachta indica (vembu), mimusopselengi (magizham), tamarindus indica (puli), syzygiumcumini (naval), pongamia pinnata (pungan), ficus benghalensis (aal), ficus religiosa (arasu), emblicaofficinalais (nelli), Terminalaia arjuna (neermarudhu) and inga dulcis (kodukkapuli).
Watch video: How India lost its finest Banni grasslands to an exotic species called Prosopis Juliflora
In addition, they removed 135 acres of weeds that covered the village lake and planted about 4,000 plants. The initiative is highly appreciated as they procure taller plants of more than 12-15 feet and plant them in pits of 1 cubic metre using earth movers.
The group procures well-grown saplings from Andhra Pradesh. Plants are watered as and when required using tractors and hose pipes. On seeing the programme’s success, the villagers started supporting it by providing voluntary services. They helped in fencing the plants with sticks and green nets.
Now, the Gram Panchayat has come forward to provide the necessary maintenance of the plants through the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme.
The younger generation of Anukkur has set an example of the successful greening of the village. In a world reeling under global warming and climate change, these kinds of initiatives are the need of the hour. Greening efforts should be made in every village, town and city to mitigate the adverse impacts of climate change.
This group, however, haven’t yet received any support from the state government. Being a forerunner of climate action, the Tamil Nadu government should extend a helping hand to the volunteers in Anukkur village. In addition, coordinating service-minded citizens in every village will go a long way towards mitigating climate change.
Governments at the state and centre should identify dedicated and viable forums and recognise their service by motivating youngsters to climate action.
Views expressed are the author’s own and don’t necessarily reflect those of Down To Earth
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