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September 17, 2023 07:19 pm | Updated September 18, 2023 01:02 am IST - IDUKKI
From a stark burnt-out land, the Pazhathottam area in Anamudi Shola National Park, near Munnar, in Idukki has transformed into a green heaven teeming with life, thanks to an initiative by the Forest department.
The area stands as an example of how an eco-restoration project could help grow natural grasslands and ensure proper food for wild animals.
Munnar Wildlife Division converted a park filled with exotic species of trees into 50 hectares of forest land. The project was implemented through the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). It was started in 2019 and completed in 2022.
“As part of the project, exotic species were cleared from the forest land, and natural grass was planted. Within months, the area was converted into a natural grassland. After changing the area to a natural grassland, the area once again saw the presence of Bison and other wild animals. Now, Nigiri Pipit and such birds are regular visitors in the area, and often, wild elephants arrive here. After the restoration, natural streams in the area were also revived. It also ensures water security in the summer season in the Chilantiyar area that is downstream the Pazhathottam region,” Munnar Wildlife Warden S.V. Vinod said.
“The eco-restoration project is being implemented with the participation of local residents. The department has formed an eco-development committee (EDC) named ‘Haritha Vasantham’ for the project. It is for the first time in the State that an EDC has been formed for a eco-restoration project,” said Mr Vinod.
The Forest department has also started a nature-friendly eco-tourism project in Pazhathottam. “Four families can stay inside the grassland. In addition, the tourists will get a chance to trek through the natural grasslands. The income thus generated will be used for paying the wages of EDC members,” said Mr Vinod.
“Even now, over 350 hectares of land inside the area is filled with exotic wattle trees. The Forest department is eying participation from corporate companies through their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) funds to change the entire area into a grassland. The move will ensure proper food for wild animals and prevent human-elephant conflict,” said Mr Vinod.
The move was also throwing up solutions for the water crisis in the area, Sherin Rajan, a forest protection watcher attached to the Pazhathottam area, said. “In the initial stage of the project, we had to collect water from another area. But after changing the hill into grasslands, old streams stand rejuvenated and water availability has been secured even during the summer season,” said Mr Rajan.
However, the task of the EDC is to preserve the area as a grassland. “Saplings of wattle and other exotic species still come up in the grassland. We remove it on time and ensure its management as a natural grassland,” Mahadevan, a member of the Haritha Vasantham EDC, said.
Vinod Kumar, another EDC member and native of Pazhathottam, said that the project was providing them with job security and proper income.
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