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21 Sep 2019, Edition - 1530, Saturday

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Grow Seemai Karuvelam trees commercially in fallow lands, say scientists

Bharath U

Scientists appear unhappy with the Madras High Court order to eradicate Seemai Karuvelam (Proposis Juliflora) trees in the 13 arid central and south districts stating that the tree’s invasive and colonising nature also results in depletion of ground water table.

Social forestry experts attached to the Tamil Nadu Agricultural University (TNAU) say the tree is the largest provider of bio-mass in the state. Joined by dendrology experts, they claim that it is used as firewood right from teashops to big factories.

The plant pods are protein-rich and good fodder for goats in rural areas. But the most important aspect is that these plants are the richest sources of activated carbon, a chemical agent widely used in paint, food, textile, and medical industries. The activated carbon is used in sanitary napkins and water purifiers too. It is also exported to various countries, experts told Covai Post.

This much- loathed plant is used for power generation (thermal combustion method) and contributes for 450 mega watt of electricity produced in the State, they assert.

The tree is native to El Salvador. Its invasive nature has seen it spread across the State and total eradication is not easy as the pods lay hidden in the ground and regenerate with the onset of the first shower.

Varsity forestry dean Dr K.K. Suresh said commercial cultivation of the tree could be taken up with the help of corporate sector. Introduction of alternative tree crops such as neem and vagai should help in eradication of the plant in the cities and towns.

But fallow lands beyond the confines of human habitations could be used to cultivate the plant commercially, he said.

“We in TNAU have suggested measures to the State Government to eradicate this colonising tree from fertile lands, while still growing it in fallow and waste lands with the help of the corporate sector.

“A reason for the fast depletion of the ground water may be the rising per capita water consumption in cities and towns. Ground water is tapped indiscriminately and recharging takes place slowly, even in a normal monsoon year.”

In Coimbatore, which is in the foot hills of Western Ghats, the water table has gone down to 150 feet.

“So pointing an accusing finger at the Seemai Karuvelam tree, ignoring human tampering with nature, would not be right,” the experts said.

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