The Madras high court Madurai bench on Monday directed the government to frame a comprehensive scheme for restoration of Shola forests in the state by eliminating fast-growing commercial exotics like eucalyptus and wattle trees in the Nilgiris, Kodaikanal and Palani hills.
The court also directed the government that no trees should be cut down until the scheme is framed. A division bench comprising justices R Sudhakar and V M Velumani gave this direction after it perused the action taken report, filed on behalf of the district forest officer of Kodaikanal, to public interest litigation (PIL).
One M Saravanan filed the PIL last year seeking direction to the state’s forest department to remove wattle and eucalyptus trees in the Western Ghats. He said that in Kodaikanal forest divisionexotic species have swallowed nearly 22,000 hectares of Shola forest On this litigation, the court on March 10, 2014 passed an interim order directing the forest department to set up an expert committee.
Besides, as per it, the committee should study the invasion of exotic species in those regions and to evolve a strategy for their removal and for restoration of Shola forests.
When this came up for further hearing on Monday, special government pleader (SGP) M Govindan told the court that adhering to its interim order the government formed a six-member team under the head of chief conservator of forests (research), which conducted regular meetings and a national level workshop on the issue.
Consequently, work plans for Nilgiris and Kodaikanal were framed. As per the work plan for Nilgiri region, the mature wattle trees above the ground level were girdled.
He further said the expert committee prepared a preliminary draft plan and sent the same to the government. It is at present in the process of finalising the report, which will be submitted to the government soon. Based on it, the final counter will be placed before the court, said the SGP.
The bench granted time to frame a plan to remove the exotic species and to restore the Shola forests.